Wright State women's basketball fans are celebrating, thanks in large part to former Chattanoogan Mike Bradbury.
Before Bradbury arrived, Wright State had enjoyed only one winning womeon's season. Since he got to Dayton five years ago, the Raiders have had three 20-win seasons and this year added the school's first Horizon League championship and its initial invitation to the NCAA women's tournament.
"It's been a good week. In my professional career this is probably the highlight," said Bradbury, a late-1980s basketball player and sprinter at East Ridge High School before moving on to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Wright State (26-8) will begin its tournament quest in Lexington, Ky., against No. 3 seed Kentucky at noon Saturday. The second game matches UTC against sixth-seeded Syracuse. Wright State is a No. 14 seed, UTC an 11.
It has been a long road for Bradbury, who started as a student assistant to then-UTC coach Craig Parrott. He went with Lady Mocs assistant Karen Kemp to East Tennessee State as her assistant and later worked at Virginia Commonwealth, Xavier and Cincinnati and then three years as head coach at Morehead State.
"He's moved around. He was ambitious and wanted to climb that ladder," said Parrott, now Ridgeland High School's athletic director. "He has paid his dues, and he did it the hard way."
Bradbury was struggling at UTC. Academically he was fine but he was working -- making first-edition deliveries of the News-Free Press to area stores -- to keep up with his tuition and support a wife and child.
"I grew up that way. Nothing was given to me and that was a good thing," he said Monday. "My mom did a great job as a single parent, but we had it rough sometimes. I think that work ethic got me where I am.
"Coach Parrott got on me when I missed classes or when I showed up with ink from the newspapers on my clothes, but I had to make a living, even if it wasn't much of one. He was my mentor. He kept me in line. I didn't like it back then, but it was good for me. I wouldn't be where I am without Craig and Karen."
For the moment Bradbury and his team are in a national limelight.
"It's nice to see things come to fruition. It was great to see the kids' faces with a minute or so left [in the Horizon championship game]," he said. "I don't like the attention and all the stuff that's been going on about me. A lot of attention gets put on the coaches. I recruited these kids and they came, but 95 percent of the time I sit over on the bench and watch them play. They deserve all the credit."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.