Jim Les was named the 23rd head coach in UC Davis history on May 5, 2011 and now enters his second year with the Aggies. Les came to the Aggies after spending nine years as the head coach at his alma mater, Bradley University, where he won more than 150 games and led the Braves to the 2006 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen. With nearly 30 years of successful playing and coaching experience in both the collegiate and professional ranks, Les is preparing for his second season on the sidelines with UC Davis.
Les is no stranger to the Sacramento area, having spent four years as a player with the Sacramento Kings, followed by three seasons as an assistant for the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs. After a nine-year professional playing career, which included seven seasons in the National Basketball Association, Les enjoyed a successful venture into the financial world before returning to his basketball roots. After three years spent with the Monarchs, Les returned to Bradley and was named the 12th men's basketball coach in Braves history on April 7, 2002.
In his first head coaching position, Les' resume continued to build at Bradley. The Braves averaged better than 20 wins in five seasons from 2005 to 2010, while racking up 10 postseason wins the that time. Along the way, Les became the first coach to win games in four different postseason tournaments in NCAA history.
Les' coaching career has been defined by more than just wins and losses, however. Of the 26 seniors he has coached in nine years, 24 have earned their degrees, while the other two are currently playing professional basketball overseas. Under Les' direction, Bradley set a program record for grade point average and had 11 team members earn a spot on the Bradley Athletic Director's Honor Roll during the 2009-10 academic year for posting a minimum 3.0 semester GPA during at least one of the two grading periods that year.
Inheriting a team that produced a 9-20 record during the 2001-02 season, Les laid a solid foundation for a program that re-emerged as a force in the Missouri Valley Conference. Les finished with a 152-140 record in nine seasons as Bradley's head man, having directed the Braves to the Sweet 16s of the 2006 NCAA Tournament and 2007 National Invitation Tournament, followed by runner-up finishes in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational (2008) and CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (2009).
In 2005-06, Les' veteran Braves were able to find their stride down the stretch and play their way into the postseason picture by winning 13 of their last 17 contests, including a seven-game win streak that took the team all the way to the MVC Tournament championship game. Bradley went on to win a pair of NCAA Tournament games, defeating No. 4 seed Kansas (77-73) and fifth-seeded Pittsburgh (72-66) at the Palace of Auburn Hills to make its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1955.
Les began his college career at Cleveland State, but transferred to Bradley during the winter break of his sophomore season. Once in the Bradley fold, Les led the Braves to a 60-27 (.690) record in his 87 games, consecutive trips to the postseason (1985 NIT and 1986 NCAA Tournament) and one of the greatest seasons in the history of both Bradley and Valley men's basketball.
The 1985-86 squad won the MVC regular season title with a perfect 16-0 league record and it remains the last Valley team to post an undefeated conference slate. Although the Braves lost the MVC Tournament championship game at Tulsa, Bradley earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Braves lost to eventual national champion Louisville in the second round. Bradley's 83-65 victory versus UTEP in the first round of the 1986 West Regional, however, was the program's first NCAA Tournament victory since 1955.
During Bradley's memorable 1985-86 season, Les averaged 14.2 points and led The Valley with 7.9 assists per game. In addition to being named MVC Player of the Year in 1986, the 5-foot-11 point guard won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Hall of Fame Award as the nation's best player less than 6-feet tall.
Les was inducted into the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame Feb. 7, 1998. He also has been inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. Additionally, Braves fans voted Les one of the 15 greatest players in program history during the celebration of Bradley's first 100 basketball seasons.
Following his senior season, Les was a third-round (70th overall) selection by the Atlanta Hawks during the 1986 NBA Draft. He went on to play seven seasons for Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento and Atlanta. He led the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage (.461) during the 1990-91 season and he was the runner-up to Chicago's Craig Hodges in the AT&T Long Distance Shootout during the 1992 NBA All-Star Weekend. Among the coaches for whom Les played during his NBA career are Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan and Dick Motta, three of the winningest coaches in NBA history.
Originally from the Chicago suburb of Niles, Ill., Les is married to the former Jodi Martineau. The couple has three children: son Tyler (20) and daughters Amber (18) and Hannah (12). Tyler is set to begin his junior campaign as a guard with the Aggies.