When Steve Novak signed with the Bucks on Monday, he called it "a dream come true."
The pride of Brown Deer High School and Marquette University said he’d always dreamed of playing for Milwaukee, his ninth NBA team in 10 seasons, for which he cheered as a boy.
Novak, who will likely occupy the last spot on the Bucks’ bench but is nonetheless "pretty pumped," isn’t the first local kid to get a chance to play for his hometown team in some capacity. Depending on how you define where someone is from (Novak was actually born in Libertyville, Ill., but grew up in Brown Deer), and depending on what sport they played, and depending on how high a level or for how long they played professionally, there have been several dozen Wisconsinites to go on to play or coach for a major-league team in their home state.
For our purposes, we tried to restrict our considerations to people who were born in Wisconsin or graduated from high school here (hoopster Mike Dunleavy Jr. only spent his freshman and sophomore years at University School and Homestead, respectively, while NBA dad Mike Dunleavy Sr. coached the Bucks, so we’re not counting him; also because he’s now on the Bulls and Giannis wouldn’t want us to). We’re also keeping this to people who played one of the three main sports (football, basketball, baseball) for at least one year. And we’re focusing only on what they did as professionals, either playing for or head coaching a pro team.
So, yeah, there are a few qualifiers. But if there weren’t, we’d have to count everyone from A to Z, or, from early-20th-century All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Ellen Ahrndt to 1980 Winter Olympian Reed Zuehlke.
To recap: state-born or bred athletes who played for or head coached a professional team in Wisconsin for at least one year.
Apologies right off the bat to Milwaukee’s Marcus Landry, who got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with the Bucks during the 2015 Summer League but didn’t make the team’s final roster, and others like him. Apologies, too, to those state sports figures who went on to coach a college program, such as Sheboygan Falls’ Rick Majerus (Marquette), or serve as an assistant for a pro team, like Kenosha’s Nick Van Exel (Bucks).
OK, enough preamble. Let’s get to the hometown heroes. They’re organized by the pro team and listed alphabetically by last name, including birthplace or high school, position and years played/coached.
Green Bay Packers
Jared Abbrederis: Wautoma, wide receiver, 2014-present
John Anderson, Waukesha, linebacker, 1978-89
Myrt Basing: Appleton, halfback, 1923-27
Wayland Becker: Soperton, end, 1936-38
Ralph Davis: Seymour, offensive guard, 1947-48
Dan Devine: Augusta, head coach, 1971-74
Ted Fritsch: Spencer, running back, 1942-1950
Jug Girard: Marinette, punter, 1948-1951
Arnie Herber: Green Bay, quarterback, 1930-1940
Swede Johnson: Appleton, running back, 1931 and 1934-38
Gene Knutson: Beloit, defensive end, 1954-56
Curly Lambeau: Green Bay, halfback and head coach, 1919-1929 as player and 1919-1949 as coach
John McNally: New Richmond, halfback, 1929-1933, 1935-36
Dom Moselle: Gile, halfback, 1951-52
Bill Schroeder: Eau Claire, wide receiver, 1994 and 1997-2001
Champ Seibold: Oshkosh, offensive lineman, 1934-1940
Mark Tauscher: Marshfield, offensive tackle, 2000-2010
Fuzzy Thurston: Altoona, offensive guard, 1959-1967
Craig Counsell: Whitefish Bay (born in South Bend, Indiana), infielder and manager, 2004 and 2007-2011 as player and 2015-present as manager
Jim Gantner: Fond du Lac, second baseman, 1976-1992
Harvey Kuenn: West Allis, manager, 1975 and 1982-83
Damian Miller: La Crosse, catcher, 2005-07
Bob Uecker: Milwaukee, catcher, 1962-63
Bob Wickman: Green Bay, pitcher, 1996-2000
Caron Butler: Racine, small forward, 2013-14
Reece Gaines: Madison, shooting guard, 2005-06
Terry Porter: Milwaukee, head coach, 2003-05
Joe Wolf: Kohler, power forward, 1996-97
John DeMerit: West Bend, outfielder, 1957-59 and 1961
Dave Koslo: Menasha, pitcher, 1954-55
Andy Pafko: Boyceville, center fielder, 1953-59
Did we forget anyone? We definitely forgot someone. Tell us who else belongs on this list in the comments section.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.