GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron A. Mitchell has been a UW-Green Bay basketball fan for nearly his entire life.
"I went to my first game back in 1989 as a six-year-old kid and it was love at first sight," the Green Bay Preble alumnus said.
As a kid, he had a front row seat to Green Bay's glory days.
"I was immediately hooked," he said. "We were there through all the great years. The (Dick) Bennett years, the (Mike) Heideman years. It was fantastic."
Mitchell said he was at about 85 percent of the Phoenix' home games from 1989-1998, sitting courtside with his dad.
"Fast forward about 15 years and I just started having this feeling that I wanted to go back and re-live some good moments," he said. "My dad passed in 2003 and it was just an opportunity to go back and re-live some of the best memories of my childhood."
So, he started doing some digging. At first just for fun, but then it took a turn.
"Once I started doing research and once I started watching tape and once I started talking to people I realized there's a story to tell here," he said. "And it's an interesting story. It's certainly one that brought back great memories for me."
There, Mitchell's book "Phoenix Rising: A Playbook for Building a Mid-Major College Basketball Program" was born.
His work was years in the making and featured interviews with several former players and legendary coach Dick Bennett, who Mitchell said has "an amazing memory for some of these details."
That recall helped to give the lifelong fan an even better sense of what made those Phoenix squads so great.
"It was a confluence of the right circumstances coming together," he said. "You had a coach that had a real mission and plan and it was a progression.
"Coach Bennett has been very clear, there wasn't an expectation that in one year or two years you had to be immediately successful," he continued. "You had to start from the bottom up."
Mitchell sees some similarities between Bennett and current Phoenix coach Will Ryan.
"I like the direction the program is headed I've had a chance to talk with coach Ryan and I think much like coach Bennett it's a progression. You're not going to see the program turn the corner in year one and it's not gonna completely happen in year two but we're on our way. I'm oprimistic about it. I think they're headed in the right direction."
A copy of the book can be purchased here.