What Does a Coach Wear?

The basketball season begins next week and everyone will be wondering how the Bearcat women’s team looks this year. Will they be big and slow? Will they be small and fast? Will they have a bunch of new faces? I’ll bet hardly anyone will ask, “What’s the coach wearing this year?” I’m going to give you a reason to check it out.

Back in the 2000-01 season, I’m having a conversation on the bench with former Missouri Western women’s basketball coach, Dave Slifer. Just like always, Dave looked dapper in his suit coat and tie. I sat beside him much more comfortable in my stylish sweater. Pete Chapman, the late Western athletic director, comes up to us and says specifically to me, “Doesn’t Northwest pay you enough to buy decent clothes for the game?” Pete did have a way with words. However, I was not offended as you will find out at the end of this blog.

Coach’s wardrobes have always fascinated me. Take high profile coaches like Bill Self, the Kansas coach, Rick Pitino, the womanizing coach at Louisville or John Calipari, the master coach of the ACT test at Memphis. They look like they were dressed by GQ. I love the guys like the old Providence coach, Rollie Massimino, who looked great at the start of the game, but looked like a homeless guy by game’s end.
One time, a coach’s wardrobe almost got him fired. George Raveling had left a successful program at the University of Southern California to coach the Iowa Hawkeyes. For some reason, he chose to wear Hawkeye basketball sweats to games. I think Nike may have convinced him to do so with a generous stipend to advertise their sweats. His teams got bombed and alumni blamed his wardrobe. First he took heat about the sweat outfits, then about his team’s performance, and finally he was canned.

Thank goodness I’m not a woman. The things they have to wear would exhaust me. Sometimes, women decide to wear an outfit in layers. I watched Tracee Fairbanks, a former player of mine and Doane basketball coach, direct her team in a Kansas City weekend tournament. She had on a green top, but it had a pink undershirt that showed only on the bottom. Who knew that green and pink would be acceptable? I ‘m not sure it would look good on me.

Sometimes, female coaches wear dresses. The long dresses seem to work out fine, but any female who chooses to wear short skirts like Sherri Coale, the Oklahoma coach, has to have a lot of courage. It would never work for me.

Pam Dubas, one of my past assistants, told me a story about her coach at Nebraska, Angela Beck. Coach Beck would really get into games and she hated officials. During one intense moment, she went to rip off her jacket. Instead, she ripped the buttons off her blouse. Can you picture it? She was so into the game, she didn’t even notice until and assistant coach pointed it out.
However, it’s footwear that makes me unbelievably thankful that I am a male. Check out those boots with high heels. How about those shoes with wrap around straps? Some have high platforms, no platforms, thick, high heels, or skinny, extremely high heels. If you question any of these female coaches they will proclaim, “But they’re very comfortable.” I personally think penny loafers are uncomfortable, so I don’t believe any of these women’s shoes are remotely comfortable.

My assistant, Lori Hopkins, confirmed the suspicion that high heels are NOT comfortable. A couple of years ago, we played the University of Montana in Billings, MT. They had a great facility, but our locker room was about a quarter mile from our bench. You had to wind around several hallways and if you got lost, it doubled the distance. Coach Hopkins was forced to take off her high heels just so she could walk faster to get to the basketball court. If she hadn’t taken off her heels, she would have missed 10 minutes of the second half.

The MIAA coaches wear a variety of wardrobe types. There are two female head coaches in our league. As far as I can tell, both Patty at UNO and Maryann at Missouri Southern are both fashionable and practical. That means they are boring for the purpose of this blog.

Northwest’s former men’s coach, Steve Tappmeyer, never changed his wardrobe choices in the 10 years I knew him. In Maryville, Steve wore a navy sports coat with a white shirt and a conservative tie. On the road, Coach Tappmeyer went with a blue sweater. At home or on the road, he always had that towel over his shoulder. I think he was superstitious.

Ron at Washburn, J.C. at Southwest Baptist and Lynn at Missouri Western always are very professional looking with conservative suits and ties for the most part. Dave at Central Missouri wears the ties at home and a mock turtle with a donkey on it for the road. I guess you can’t pick your mascot. Lane at Pitt, Michael at Truman, and Tony at Fort Hays go more for the casual look. Brandon at Emporia likes change. Some years, he may be conservative in shirts and ties. Other years may find him with a casual look. Brandon just got married and his wife had a baby, so it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with this year.

This is my 13th year as a head coach. As a high school coach, I wore two jackets, alternating the coats each game. For a couple of years at Doane College, I wore suits and ties. That was a train wreck ready to happen. Now, I think I’ve found the perfect balance. First, I’ll never, ever wear a tie. When my success is determined by a group of 19- to 23-year-old college women, why would I wear something I could sneak off to the bathroom and hang myself? I now wear a sports jacket and never take it off. If Pete Chapman were alive today, he couldn’t say Northwest underpays me. Also, I can’t get too intense or I’d pass out from the heat while wearing my coat. Keep the collar open and loose and I’m good to go for the season. In basketball, there’s a reason for everything.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.