Bob Lutz

Braeuer pursuing dream

Matt Braeuer made a decision when he was in the eighth or ninth grade from which he has never wavered.

When his friends were deciding to go to business school or become lawyers or go into other potentially-lucrative fields, Braeuer stayed the course.

He wanted to coach basketball. That's all he's ever wanted to do, a desire born from watching, and then playing for, his father in Benton, Texas.

"A lot of people waver from what they want to do,'' said Braeuer, who decided to play college basketball at Wichita State because Mark Turgeon, the coach who recruited him, told Braeuer he could someday help him get into coaching. "I never wavered.''

And he never hesitated, either.

A year after his playing career ended, during the 2008-09 season, Braeuer was a graduate assistant on Gregg Marshall's staff at Wichita State. He was on the Shockers' bench again last season before landing a job as assistant at Midland (Texas) Community College, one of the traditionally-strong teams in junior college basketball.

Working for Ross Hodge, a coach who just turned 30, Braeuer is part of a 19-4 Chaparrals team that is ranked No. 18 in the latest NJCAA poll.

You could tell Braeuer had a focus unlike most when he arrived at Wichita State, floppy hair and all. Adored by fans — especially female fans — Braeuer played with no nonsense, respectful of the game and determined to reach his potential as a player.

"The first couple of years with Gregg Marshall at WSU helped me a lot,'' Braeuer said. "Everybody is guilty of it, but you think you know a lot more than you really do whenever you start in something like this. Once you get a little bit into your career I realized there was a lot I didn't know about this job. It scares some people away.''

Not Braeuer.

This is a guy who overcame one concussion after another during his WSU playing career. He hit one of the most famous shots in Shocker history, a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Creighton in overtime during the 2005-06 season. Braeuer wasn't about to give up on his dream of coaching just because it could be demanding at times.

"You're not the first to ask about the concussions,'' Braeuer said. "Everything is great. I haven't had any lingering issues. My wife (Ashley) might say differently. She might say I selectively forget or maybe I'm doing something else when she's talking to me and I lose my train of thought.''

Braeuer is doing everything a coach does at Midland, and it goes well beyond instructing players. He recruits, breaks down film, scouts, helps develop game plans and tries to make as many contacts as he can.

"Recruiting is really hard,'' Braeuer said. "You're on the phone a lot, trying to figure out ways — without cheating — to be able to appeal to some of these players because a lot of junior college programs are the same. You have to be creative.''

Midland started the season ranked No. 1 in the country and is a threat to get to Hutchinson in March for the national tournament.

Braeuer would love that, obviously, partly because he doesn't get to come to Kansas as often as he would like. He's in the Kansas City area recruiting sometimes, and says he is interested in recruiting closer to Wichita. But most of the players he's watching are from Florida and the south, where Midland has had success in the past.

"Wichita State is a special place for me,'' Braeuer said. "I came back for the Tulsa game at Intrust Bank Arena and it was kind of an eerie feeling not being on the sideline. I've never actually watched a college basketball game like I did that night, from up in the seats.

"When you go to another game or a juco game and there are a couple hundred people in the crowd, you realize how special Wichita State is. There are a lot of BCS types of schools that don't charter flights to road games. You realize how good you have it at a place like Wichita State.''

As Braeuer grew more confident as a grad assistant, Marshall gave him more responsibility.

"I did feel like I was a part of it,'' Braeuer said. "Especially by the second year, Coach Marshall would ask for my input on certain things and I felt comfortable voicing my opinion. That's not something a lot of GA's get to do.''

Marshall, who helped Braeuer get the job at Midland, thinks the former player has a bright future as a coach.

"He knows the game and he's a passionate kid,'' Marshall said. "He did a good job in the GA spot for us. He related to the players very well. Coaching is in his blood and I think he wants to give it a great shot.''

Oh, there's no doubt about it. If you watched Braeuer play during his Wichita State career, you know he's not easily deterred.

He overcame a lack of size to become one of the most productive Missouri Valley point guards of his era. He overcame concussions. He wasn't a great shooter, ball handler or defender. But he was often the smartest player on the floor and the most resourceful one, too.

Those are good traits for an aspiring coach to have.

And get this, Braeuer might not be the most competitive person in his family.

"Ashley started her full-time job as a speech pathologist in January,'' he said. "She's going to be a very successful woman, there's no question. She's more driven than anybody I've ever met.''

Whoa, get out of that family's way.