Men's College Basketball

Hellenthal links QU's rich past with its bright future

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 12, 2017 12:15 am

It wasn't long after the news became official before Ryan Hellenthal's inbox was filled with text messages and voicemails.

The same can be said for his father, Mike.

Thursday, Quincy University announced a change in its coaching ranks as Marty Bell retired after 14 seasons as the head men's basketball coach and Hellenthal was promoted. His first head coaching job made him the 15th coach in program history and the first to be a Quincy native.

Better yet, it linked QU's rich past with a bright future.

That became clear when Mike Hellenthal received a text message from Mike Hanks, the son of legendary coach Sherrill Hanks. It simply read: "Dad would be happy and proud today."

Retelling that story Friday morning after his introductory press conference and talking in-depth about his family's relationship with Hanks made Ryan tear up and pause to compose himself.

"To know and embrace the history here, this program is so tradition rich. It's had so many great coaches," Hellenthal said. "To have my father work for Coach Hanks is special. He carried the torch for this place and really put Quincy University basketball on the map.

"To have my last name mentioned with Sherrill Hanks and his family means everything to me."

Sherrill Hanks came to Quincy in 1960, and in the 15 years that followed, he led the Quincy High School boys basketball team to 20 wins each season. In 1973, he hired Mike Hellenthal as an assistant coach and set in motion the events that led to Friday's moment.

In 1975, Quincy College hired Hanks as its men's basketball coach, and over the next 11 seasons, he led the Hawks to 239 victories and a third-place finish in the NAIA national tournament in 1978. Hanks retired with the highest winning percentage (.668) in program history.

Hanks also served as the QU athletic director from 1975-92 and maintained strong relationships with his players and coaches until his death in 2010 at the age of 85. He had a special relationship with the Hellenthals.

"I remember walking into his house out in Spring Lake as a young boy," Ryan said. "It was special to talk basketball with him."

Now, he gets to carry on Hanks' legacy.

QU transitioned from the NAIA to NCAA Division II in the mid-1990s, and the Hawks have made eight national tournament appearances. However, QU has yet to reach the elite eight at that level or replicate the kind of postseason success Hanks' teams had.

It's possible. Last season proved that.

The Hawks went 25-7 in Bell's final season and Hellenthal's first as an assistant coach. They won the Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division championship and beat Kentucky Wesleyan in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

A season that featured the second-most victories in school history ended with a loss to top-seeded Bellarmine in the region semifinals, but it reaffirmed the Hawks can compete with the best in the country.

That left Hellenthal hungry and encouraged. As he takes over the program, he sees the potential for success. He saw it growing up when he watched what Hanks did and he relishes the chance to match it, maybe even better it.

"I really hope we can make him proud," Hellenthal said.

Linking QU's past with its future will undoubtedly do that.

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