Bemidji State basketball coach Matt Bowen started career under Alabama-Birmingham legend Gene Bartow, Beavers take four-game winning streak to No. 21 Augustana

Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen started his coaching career as an assistant at Alabama-Birmingham under Gene Bartow, who died this week at age 81. Photo courtesy BSU Photo Services

Bemidji State men’s basketball coach Matt Bowen started his career in 1995 as an assistant coach at Alabama-Birmingham and spent seven years with the Blazers.

Legendary coach Gene Bartow, who died Tuesday at age 81 in Birmingham, hired Bowen and started him on the road that eventually led to Bemidji State.

“He was the absolute most nicest, genuine person you would ever want to meet,” Bowen said. “I remained in touch with him up until the day he died almost. He’s one of my favorites of all-time.”

Bartow was an influential personality in college basketball during his 34 years as a head coach when he compiled a 647-353 career record.

In this March 26, 1973, file photo, basketball coaches John Wooden of UCLA, left and Gene Bartow of Memphis State chat during a news conference in St. Louis. Bartow, who succeeded Wooden at UCLA and later began UAB's athletic program died this week at 81. (AP Photo/File)

His Memphis State team finished runner-up to national champion California-Los Angeles (UCLA) at the 1973 Final Four. Bartow succeeded John Wooden as head coach at UCLA in 1975 and left that position to start the Alabama-Birmingham athletic program in 1977.

He was the first head basketball coach at the school and guided UAB to seven straight NCAA tournaments from 1980-1987. He coached 12 teams to the Division I tournament and nine to the National Invitation Tournament.

Bowen spent five years as a student manager for Bobby Knight at Indiana before going to Birmingham.

“I learned a lot of basketball at Indiana and a lot of competitive stuff,” Bowen said. “When I went to Birmingham, the first thing he (Bartow) said was it was going to be a better basketball experience than what it was at Indiana. He said you’re going to learn how the rest of the world works.”

Bowen said some of the aspects he learned at Birmingham have carried through his coaching career.

“The things that I try to do daily – a lot comes from him,” Bowen said. “I learned how to treat people, work with people, recruit and raise money along with him and his son Murray. It was a hands-on working relationship that was outstanding. You never forget the person who gives you first job because he puts a tremendous amount of trust into you.”

Bowen left Birmingham in 2002 and served as the assistant coach at Valparaiso from 2002-06 before coming to Bemidji State.

“He helped me with recommendations for each job,” Bowen said. “You can’t meet a more genuine, kind and competitive guy. He didn’t drink, smoke, swear and was a great guy. And a really good basketball coach.”

Beavers take four-game winning streak to No. 21 Augustana

The Bemidji State men’s basketball team takes its record start on the road this weekend to face No. 21 Augustana and unranked Wayne State.

Dermaine Crockrell

The Beavers have the best record since the 1973-74 season with a 10-3 overall record and are fourth alone in the NSIC standings at 5-2. All three losses this year have come against nationally ranked teams.

“We’ve had three opportunities and have come up short each time,” BSU head coach Matt Bowen said. “It’s another chance to play a nationally-known program on the road and see if we can steal a victory.”

The Beavers play the Vikings (8-4, 5-3 NSIC) in Sioux Falls at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game televised live regionally on Midco Sports Network and face Wayne State (4-8, 3-5) on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Led by NSIC Preseason Player of the Year Cody Schilling an former Ellsworth High School standout, the Vikings are on a three-game losing streak after winning six straight.

“I don’t know what to think of them, but they have a tremendous amount of talent and they’re still rated,” Bowen said. “They might be a bit out of sync and I don’t know why that is, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad for us.”

One streak has to give Saturday.

The Beavers enter the game on a four-game winning streak, which is tied with St. Cloud State as the second longest in the conference behind MSU, Moorhead’s 11 wins.

The Beavers are coming off Tuesday’s dominating 85-72 home win over travel partner Minnesota-Duluth.

BSU is leaning on the scoring production of James Ellisor, Bryce Tesdahl’s play-making ability and the recent addition of speedy slasher Dermaine Crockrell.

Also contributing success this season is the bench group of Zach Noreen, Maxie Rosenbloom, David Berthene, Jon Krebs and Jason Edwards.

“One of those guys finds a way to get 10 points for us every night,” Bowen said. “I don’t have prototypical players that fit into slots and that’s by design. We have point guards that can post up, we have big guys that can step out to shoot 3s and we have forwards that can play the point. It creates different matchups and we have kids that can do a multitude of different things. The kids have all bought into the system and the rules, so it’s been a fun group to work with so far.”

BSU women look to snap losing streak

The BSU women play Augustana at 4 p.m. Saturday and No. 8 Wayne State at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Beavers are 5-7 (3-4 NSIC) on the season and are looking to snap a four-game losing streak. The Beavers lost to Minnesota-Duluth 74-54 at BSU Gymnasium on Tuesday.

Should the Beavers win this weekend, it would mark the 500th win in program history.

Kate Warmack has the hot hand for BSU and her 57.4 field goal percentage in conference games ranks fourth in the NSIC.

Bemidji State ranks fifth in the nation in free throw shooting at 80 percent. Ellie Wessling’s 89.7 free throw percentage ranks third in the league.

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.

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