Feb. 17, 2012
Former Bearcats make impact from bench
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State men’s assistant basketball coach Andy Peterson has a good understanding what women’s graduate assistant basketball coach Gentry Dietz is going through this season.
Peterson graduate from Northwest in 2008. In his last season, the Bearcats won the MIAA Tournament and advanced to regional.
At the time, Peterson wasn’t sure if would go into coaching. Longtime Northwest coach Steve Tappmeyer believed he had the qualities to coach.
“I had a lot of fun with basketball,” Peterson said. “I look back to the coaches I had and the impact they had on my life, not even basketball, but being a human being and a useful part of society. I feel like a lot of that came from coach Tapp.”
Peterson went from Northwest player in 2008 to Northwest graduate assistant in 2009.
It is the identical step Dietz has taken. Like Peterson, Dietz was a member of a Northwest team that won the MIAA Tournament and advanced to postseason last year to coaching some of the same players she was once teammates with.
“It is hard, especially staying at the school you were at right after you played,” Dietz said. “Most of these girls are still my friends. It is hard. Are you supposed to yell at your friends? I struggle going back and forth. Sometimes I’m too friendly and then I get mad. Sometimes I feel bi-polar.”
Another similarity is the change in fortune Peterson and Dietz went through from year to the next. In Peterson’s two seasons as grad assistant, the Bearcats failed to make the MIAA Tournament.
The fall has been even tougher for the women. Last year Northwest reached the NCAA Division II Final Four, the furthest any Bearcat basketball team has gone in Division II.
This year, Northwest heads into Saturday’s home game against Central Missouri, next to last and fighting for the eighth spot in the MIAA Tournament.
“I think you learn a lot more in a challenging year as opposed to last year when if we did something wrong, we could still win games,” Dietz said.
Life as a graduate assistant is all about learning, working hard and acquiring the traits necessary to be successful in adulthood.
Only a small percentage of graduate assistant coaches end up making coaching their fulltime job. It is the path Peterson is taking. Dietz isn’t quite sure. She still has another year to figure it out.
But Dietz already knows she wants to stay in athletics.
“I would like to work for the NCAA someday,” she said. “I love being around sports. I can’t see myself in a desk job.”
It means doing a bit of everything now.
“Life as a grad assistant is other duties as assigned,” Peterson said. “You pretty much do anything and everything from sweeping the floors to getting the balls ready to running drills to running practice.
“You do a lot of individual, 1-on-1 stuff. For me the biggest role is you are that bridge between the head coach and the players. Tapp came to us a lot about how a guy is feeling so he could make inform coaching decisions.”
Northwest women’s basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer has the same sort of trust with Dietz.
“She was not afraid to come in my office, give me ideas and talk about anything,” Steinmeyer said. “When she came to me and said she wanted to stay in the game, it was a no question I wanted her as my GA. She has exceeded all expectations I had of her.
“Gentry Dietz is not a grad assistant except in title. I have yelled at her. I have done everything I could to irritate her and she just keeps coming back at me. That is what it takes to be a good assistant coach. You can’t have your feelings hurt.”
Peterson, who is now is his fourth year of coaching, has gotten a full spectrum of coaching ideas and the ups and downs with winning and losing.
In his second season as graduate assistant, he worked for Ben McCollum, who entered his first season as Northwest head coach.
Last year, Peterson got his first assistant coaching job at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa.
“There is more than one way to do things,” Peterson said. “That is why there are so many styles. It’s not about picking the right play; it is executing the play.”
This season the Bearcats are currently executing plays better than any team in the MIAA. They head into Saturday’s important home game against Central Missouri with a 20-3 overall record and 14-3 in the MIAA. Central Missouri, Missouri Southern and Washburn all have five conference losses.
“It has been rewarding,” Peterson said. “You watch the players buy in and truly become a team and trust each other. We have had teams in the past I told them that I wouldn’t be real excited to be on the team. But this is a team I’d want to be part of.”
Win or lose, one thing is certain: a graduate assistant with an open mind learns a lot more about the game.
“This has been very eye-opening,” Dietz said. “As a player, everybody thinks they know about basketball. Why don’t we do that? But when you are on the other side and you are watching the whole game, you see more things that you may not have seen as a player. It is a challenge to transition from playing to coaching.”
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