Since Jim Les became the 23rd head coach in UC Davis' history on May 5, 2011, the Aggies posted their best records as a Division I program, won every game played on Hamilton Court twice within a three-year timespan, captured their first Big West Conference championship, Big West Tournament championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The program's championship tradition continued in 2018 when the Aggies won their third Big West title within the last four seasons, and earned another trip to the postseason.
In addition to numerous championships and playoff appearances, Les also created a unique home court advantage like no other team in the conference. In the last four years, no mainland squad boasts more home wins than the Aggies; during that same timespan, no Big West team holds a higher home win percentage than UC Davis.
UC Davis' historic 2017 NCAA Tournament run, which started with a come-from-behind victory against the defending league champions, continued with another win in the NCAA First Four vs. North Carolina Central and a matchup against Kansas in the Midwest Regional First Round, are the latest accomplishments for a program that has a well-deserved reputation for succeeding in the classroom, on the court, and in the community — all earned throughout Les' six years on campus.
The 2014-15 Big West Coach of the Year led UC Davis to its first-ever Big West Conference championship and its inaugural postseason berth as a D-I team when the Aggies faced Stanford in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. That appearance capped a season that included new school records for the most overall, home, road, conference and non-conference wins.
For the first time in school history, UC Davis ended the season as the NCAA's national team three point champions by virtue of its .447 shooting percentage - the highest mark recorded by any team since the three-point line was pushed back to its current distance. Corey Hawkins, the country's No. 1 three-point shooter with his .488 percentage brought the team's first-ever individual title to Davis; combined, the 2014-15 squad recorded the highest three-point team percentage since 1994.
As the only team in the nation to hold top five three-point and overall field goal percentages on a weekly basis, men's basketball posted a +16 win differential - a Big West Conference record and the nation's No. 1 turnaround.
Under Les' tutelage, no league team collected more all-conference and specialty awards that UC Davis - home of the Big West Coach of the Year, Player of the Year (Hawkins) and Sixth Man of the Year (Josh Fox). This season marked the first occasion that an Aggie received each award.
This accomplishment took place once again in 2017-18 when the Aggies collected more all-league hardware than any other team. Included in that year's honor roll were three of the Big West's top individual awards: Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year — both won by TJ Shorts II, who became the first player in league history to win its top two individual honors — and Coach of the Year.
The following season, no team was more dominant on defense than UC Davis. In addition to posting the lowest scoring average in the league, both overall and during conference play, the Aggies set new program records in all major rebounding categories and by holding opponents to season-low percentages, both overall and from three-point territory.
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. In all, Les possesses nearly 30 years of successful playing and coaching experience in both the collegiate and professional ranks.
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 throughout 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 his first 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 and daughters Amber and Hannah.