MARSHALL - It's 2:53 p.m. on Thursday afternoon at the R/A Facility. Practice for the Southwest Minnesota State University men's basketball team officially started eight minutes ago. Players are doing their warm-up exercises. Coach Brad Bigler is finishing up in the conference room with a young man who's come to visit the SMSU campus.
Bigler probably has a lot on his mind. His team has been on a three-game losing streak. Recruiting season is in full swing. The 'Drake's Law' bill, named after his five-month old son who was killed in a drunk driving accident in July 2012, was reintroduced at the state legislature this past week.
He has every reason to request a reporter come back after practice or just give some stock "coach speak"
to his questions.
to his questions.
However, he asks, "You need me?" after he finishes up his meeting with the young man. He proceeds to give thoughtful responses on how the team will match up against the Northern State Wolves tomorrow night.
He doesn't give rushed or hurried answers even though his team is waiting for their next direction. He continues to give well thought-out responses when he's asked a few questions more than normal. He says "thanks" after the questions are done.
Bigler always seems to do this, even if the questions come via phone late on a Sunday afternoon after an exhausting road trip. When asked if he has a few minutes he usually responds with, "Let's do it."
He seems to have passed this wisdom onto his team as well. Not many college students know the power of a firm handshake, making eye contact, and giving their full attention when someone asks them a question. Bigler's players understand that doing those things, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, mean a lot.
Success in basketball often relies on doing "little things" right, like making the extra pass, getting offensive rebounds, or sinking free throws. Good coaches teach those things. Good players accomplish those things. But good people do the little things wherever they are, on or off the court.
Bigler does those little things. Whether it's speaking to a group of young professionals in Marshall, taking a few extra minutes with the parents of a recruit, or trusting a young player with some extra responsibilities, he knows that running a successful team doesn't end when practice does.
Some coaches achieve such a level of notoriety that they are automatically associated with a program or a school: Coach K and Duke, Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Billy Donovan and Florida.
Bigler is well on his way to gaining that level of renown at SMSU for all the right reasons.
He's two wins away from passing Pierre duCharme for second all-time career wins for the Mustangs. He's also a kind person who cares about his team, his family, and his community.
He does it all with a genuine spirit that not all coaches present.
It really is about the little things.