Kevin Schnepf, Published February 08 2012
Schnepf: Coleman fitting right in on Cobbers coaching staff
“It was really a blessing in disguise,” Coleman reflected Wednesday afternoon.
Unlike two years ago when he was a North Dakota State junior watching the game of basketball from the bench, Coleman was seated on the sidelines at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday night. This time, he was an assistant coach for Concordia’s men’s basketball team.
Funny how life’s mishaps turn can turn into fortune.
His Achilles injury – which seemed devastating at the time – altered his career path. Before he heard his Achilles pop during a routine drill at practice, Coleman was thinking he would eventually return to his hometown of St. Paul to work with youth at a local rec center.
After the injury, he found himself giving tips during Bison games to freshmen like Nate Zastrow, Mike Felt and Jordan Aaberg.
“It really kind of eased me into coaching,” said Coleman.
Coleman has been in full-throttle coaching mode ever since Rich Glas hired him as his No. 1 assistant last spring. And with the 63-year-old Glas adding athletic director to his business card, you can expect the 24-year-old Coleman to take on even more responsibilities with the Cobbers program.
“If I didn’t have that support from Freddy, I would never have taken the A.D. job,” said Glas, who officially becomes athletic director March 15. “Freddy has been a good fit for us.”
It seems Coleman has been a good fit wherever life has taken him.
He was an all-state football player at St. Paul Johnson High School. That was no surprise. His dad, Fred, played semi-pro football. What was somewhat surprising is that Coleman chose basketball as his college sport.
As a sophomore, he was a defensive stopper for the NDSU dream team that advanced to the 2008 NCAA tournament. If you recall, Coleman was one of the first players to leave the bench and tackle All-American point guard Ben Woodside while celebrating a Summit League tournament championship that sent the Bison to the big dance.
One year later, he was on the bench with his injured Achilles. He came back to play in the 2010-11 season, ending his career averaging nearly five points per game, dishing out more than 100 assists and providing highlight tapes with numerous acrobatic dunks.
“I do miss those playing days,” said Coleman, who still hooks up with former Bison dream teamers like Mike Nelson and Brett Winkelman for some Sunday-night city league games.
Hard to believe Coleman has enough energy left over from his rigorous schedule as a coach. He’s constantly analyzing tape of opponents in the Memorial Auditorium office he shares with student assistant coach Matt Petersen.
During practices and games, he provides a sounding board for players.
“He can relate to them probably a little better than I can at times,” Glas said. “Grandpa here might be a little out of touch at times.”
In addition to practices and games, Coleman is usually driving to the Twin Cities or southern Minnesota two or three times a week looking for players who will help turn the Concordia men’s program into an annual contender.
That has happened often – with the Cobbers posting only 15 winning seasons in the last 55 years, two of which have coming during Glas’ four years at Concordia.
“We have to recruit a lot of players to get a few,” said Coleman, who at times will hop off the bus at 3 a.m. from a road game and hit the recruiting roads hours later. “It’s a lot of Mountain Dew, coffee and sunflower seeds.”
“That’s the one good thing of hiring younger coaches. They are eager,” said Glas, who at the age of 25 was named the head coach at Minnesota-Morris before piling up 335 wins at the University of North Dakota. “They are the cowboys that have to round up the cattle while I have to stay back at the ranch and take care of things.”
Which could happen more often once Glas officially becomes the athletic director.
“He will have a lot of new things on his plate,” Coleman said. “I will just try to make that transition easier for him, anyway I can. I love it. It has just been a fun environment to be in. I don’t even think of it as work.”
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at
(701) 241-5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found