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Bemidji State men's basketball head coach Matt Bowen (second from left) has the luxury of working with younger assistants Kevin Williamson (right) and Ryan Montgomery plus a veteran of the coaching profession, his dad, Rick (left). MONTE DRAPER | PIONEER PHOTO

Rick Bowen provides sounding board, valued second opinion

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When Bemidji State University men's basketball coach Matt Bowen needs a second opinion during a crucial situation he can turn to a familiar source sitting next to him on the bench - his father Rick.

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"I'm pretty fortunate to have grown up during his coaching career and having been around him and basketball all of my life," Matt said. "And now we've flip-flopped the tables a little bit."

Rick has a storied coaching history and he retired from UW-River Falls as the program's winningest coach with 259 victories.

After retiring from River Falls Rick wanted to remain involved in the game and Matt was more than happy to give his dad a spot on the BSU bench as an assistant coach.

"There is so much more to basketball than just Xs and Os," Matt said. "The people and the relationships with those people are very important.

"I have two great assistant coaches in Ryan (Montgomery) and Kevin (Williamson) but both of them are single and in their 20s. Their outlook is different than my dad's or mine. Dad provides a valued second opinion from a person who has been down the road before."

Bemidji State won the NSIC regular season title this winter and begins its quest for the NCAA II national crown 1 p.m. Saturday when it tangles with St. Cloud in the quarterfinals of the Central Regional in Golden, Colo.

No matter what happens this weekend the Beavers have experienced a memorable campaign for the players, coaches and fans. Rick will be by his son's side for all of the games in Colorado and will provide any guidance his son may seek.

"I'm there to help the coaching staff now and again but the one thing I've learned sitting next to Matt is that he is an outstanding coach," Rick said. "Matt gets more out of his players than many coaches. He is a really outstanding practice coach and I'm also proud of the way he teaches the game."

Rick lives in River Falls but he regularly makes the trip to Bemidji to be on the bench for the home games. He also makes most of the road trips and will be in the gym for the first few weeks of practice in the fall.

"I want the players to know who I am," Rick said. "But I try to say very little to them because I'm here one day and gone the next."

Rick's opinions are valued by his son and he isn't hesitant to seek his father's perspective on a situation. Of equal value is Rick's ability to assess talent when he watches a high school player in action.

"Dad is a sounding board for me," Matt said. "He understands what I'm about and what direction I want to go. He has taken all of the bus rides and watched all of the film but in the end he still loves basketball.

"Dad retired because he was tired but I am able to let him stay active with the game by being with the guys while staying in the background.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody."

Rick will be by his son's side on Saturday when BSU battles St. Cloud. Matt has been through the tournament trials during his various tenures as an assistant coach but this will be his first journey into the NCAA postseason as a head coach.

Rick, however, has traveled this road before and his experience will be a valuable asset for the Beavers.

"It's exciting being in the tournament but one of the things people don't understand is all of the work that is involved for a coach," Rick said.

"We will enjoy this opportunity but the logistics of dealing with scouting reports, getting from Point A to Point B and everything involved with preparing for the tournament can be tiring.

"My role won't be any different than it has been all season," Rick continued. "I'll keep my mouth shut and offer advice when needed. And whether my advice is needed or not, I'll have one of the best seats in the house."

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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