Matt Braeuer likes to think he knows the ins and outs of Koch Arena, particularly that left corner in front of Wichita State’s bench where he drilled that game-winner against Creighton on Valentine’s Day 11 years ago.
He was a fan favorite as a player, not just for that overtime dagger to beat Creighton, but for his energy at point guard on the 2005-06 team that made it to the NCAA Sweet 16. Braeuer even stuck around Koch Arena two more years following his playing career as a graduate assistant on Gregg Marshall’s staff.
But Braeuer ventured into one area of Koch Arena on Monday night he had never seen: the visiting locker room. In all of his time in Wichita, Braeuer, the director of basketball operations for the College of Charleston, had never even thought to look inside before.
“I don’t even know what it looks like,” Braeuer said before Charleston faced Wichita State. “I’ve never seen the visitor locker room, I’ve never sat on that side of the court before, either. It’s definitely going to be a little weird.”
Since leaving Wichita State’s staff in 2010, Braeuer has been an assistant coach at Midland College, where the team played for the NJCAA championship, for a season, a video coordinator for Mark Turgeon at Maryland for two seasons, and an assistant coach at Sam Houston State for three seasons before landing at Charleston last season.
Now he works for coach Earl Grant, who was an assistant under Marshall for three years at WSU. Braeuer, 31, hopes one day to be a head coach.
“I think that’s everybody’s ultimate goal when they get into this business,” Braeuer said. “I’m just putting in my time and trying to stay patient.”
Braeuer, who ranks No. 11 in WSU’s history with 130 career three-pointers and No. 14 with 308 career assists, has returned to Koch Arena a handful of times, including the 10-year reunion for the 2006 team’s Sweet 16 run.
He said it will be a strange feeling being back with Shocker fans and feeling the energy inside Koch Arena he used to thrive on.
“There’s an obvious emotional connection there and I have so many experiences and memories from my time here in Wichita,” Braeuer said. “I’ll always hold those close to my heart. I’ll always root for Wichita State, but the people that know me know that I’m a competitor. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, I want to win.
“So for those two hours on Monday, we’ll be playing a game and I’ll be coaching as hard as anybody to try to help us beat Wichita State. After the game, I’ll go back to being a proud alumni.”
Some of the players on the College of Charleston know it’s a homecoming for Braeuer. He said he has already told them what to expect.
“It’s no secret that it’s a great place to play and the fans are fantastic,” Braeuer said. “But we have a pretty good crowd here, too, so we know what it’s like to play in a loud environment. Maybe not as loud, though. I’ve just been telling them to enjoy the moment because they’re going to see the environment at its best.”
Regardless of Monday’s result, Braeuer said it was nice to be back in Wichita to see familiar faces and some people he hasn’t seen in a long time.
And yes, people still stop him occasionally and make him relive that shot on that night against Creighton. Braeuer doesn’t mind.
He enjoys being part of Shocker history.
“It was a great moment and one that I’ll obviously never forget,” Braeuer said. “That’s something you dream about hitting a game-winning shot like that. To do it in front of the home crowd in front of our fans and to be able to do it against Creighton made it even more special.”