Bring In The New, Remember The Past

I’m really excited for two of my friends and former colleagues, Austin Meyer and Addae Houston.  This weekend they begin a new era in Northwest Missouri State Women’s Basketball.  These two men will coach their first game for the Bearcat women in a tournament at Wayne State in Nebraska.

Austin is definitely no stranger to big games.  He comes from years as the men’s assistant coach at Northwest.  Austin did all the substituting for head coach, Ben McCollum, including the National Championship season of 2016-2017.

It just wasn’t the substituting that Austin did for Ben.  He was involved in every part of the program.  One of my pet peeves is when first-time head coaches are handed head coaching jobs without paying their dues.  That is particularly true if someone was a good player.

None of that is true for Austin.  Austin was overqualified to become a head coach.  It didn’t matter if it was of a men’s or women’s program.  Northwest Missouri was lucky to get a person who had prepared for this moment for years.

It’s a little unusual to see two males as the top two coaches of a women’s program.  When Austin hired Addae Houston, that’s exactly what he did.  Addae definitely paid his dues to come back to his alma mater to coach.

It’s not like two male coaches hasn’t worked.  All you have to do is look at the women’s NCAA II National Champion from last year Central Missouri State.  Head coach, Dave Slifer, hired long-time Missouri Western men’s assistant coach, Nike Nicholson as his top assistant.  Mike is another coach that definitely paid his dues.

The first time I met Addae was when he joined Steve Tappmeyer’s basketball team as a player.  He played for former Northwest Missouri assistant men’s coach, Chris Johnson, at a junior college in Texas.  Addae is from Dallas, Texas.

My son, Sam, wasn’t very old when Addae came to Northwest, but he continually corrected me when I pronounced Addae’s name incorrectly.  From the start, he was a favorite of the Steinmeyer family.

Addae comes back to Northwest after building Southwest Iowa Community College to competitive heights, all the time living in a dorm on campus as part of his salary.  That’s really paying your dues.

Addae was a volunteer coach and then a two-year graduate assistant for me during my last years as the Northwest Missouri women’s coach.  He was on the bench in 2011 when the Bearcat team advanced to the Final Four.

The one accomplishment of Addae’s I’ll always consider one of his best in his time with me was the transformation to point guard for local recruit, April Miller.  April played at Worth County.  She came as an off-guard and although a great defensive player, probably wasn’t going to see much action.

That’s when she went to work with Addae, spending hours in the gym learning the skills of a point guard.  Never in my 28 years as a college coach have I seen an off-guard work herself into a starting point guard.  That’s exactly what April, with Addae’s mentoring, accomplished.  April was the starting point guard on two NCAA II Tournament teams at Northwest.

The new era of Bearcat women’s basketball brings back memories to my first games as a first-year head coach at Doane College.  I had been handed a schedule that began with a two-day tournament at Graceland College in Lamoni, IA.

I knew nothing about college basketball.  My first thought about the Lamoni Tournament was about playing two games in one day.  Did that happen often?  As it turned out, Graceland wanted an eight-team tournament, but the college didn’t allow Sunday games.  The answer was to play two games on Saturday.

I could only guess how long it would take to get to Lamoni from Crete, Nebraska.  Back then, GPS was only in sci-fi movies, so I grabbed a map and plotted the shortest way.  Unfortunately, that took me on the narrow, county roads when I should have taken Highway 2.

It was an eventful two days.  The day before we left, my 6-2 post player dislocated a finger on her shooting hand.  Thankfully, it wasn’t broken.  She decided to tape it up and play.

After about 40 minutes into our morning trip to Lamoni, my manager, in an overpacked van became car sick.  I didn’t get the van stopped in time and she threw up in the van.  That made the rest of the ride pretty miserable if you had a decent sense of smell.

The roads were so bad, we showed up 45 minutes before the 12:30 game time.  They refused to delay the game with a tight schedule of eight games on that Friday.  My college debut was a rushed warm-up in a strange looking gym at Graceland College.

Our opponent was Benedictine College.  There had been absolutely no scouting report.  I’m not sure we even knew who we were playing until we arrived at the gym.  The game was close the first half, probably because we had just gotten out of a van after a four-hour trip.  Things got better the second half and we won the game.

That meant in five hours, we would face Evangel College.  Evangel looked like a good team and I had my doubts about if we could compete.  However, after our first meal of the day, the team was ready to go.

Again, it was close, closer than the Benedictine game.  Again, Doane pulled it out with a late surge.  Now, in my first year at the helm of a college team, we were in the championship game of the Graceland Tournament.

I didn’t know how things worked on overnight trips.  Graceland had offered dorm rooms for teams that spent the night.  I accepted them, not knowing it wasn’t exactly the housing visiting college teams craved.

Graceland was a conservative college and the dorms were locked early, even on the weekend.  There would be no late-night snacks or coaches talking strategy in a local watering hole.

Our opponent was the host team, Graceland.  They had blown out two junior college teams on the way to the championship team.  I didn’t realize it was very unusual for junior colleges to compete in a varsity, four-year college event.  It did get the host team in the championship game.

We waited until late Saturday afternoon to claim the championship in a blow-out.  My post player with the bad finger was named the tournament’s most valuable player.  I thought this college coaching was easy.  My first two days of action and already we were 3 – 0 and a tournament champion.

I wish I could tell you I had things figured out, but sadly that was about the most success my Doane teams had those first three years.  Finally, during my fourth year, I figured out you needed a good point guard to succeed at the college level.  With a future Doane Hall of Famer, a freshmen point guard helped us win 24 games.  I could have used Addae a lot earlier.