Bulldog Tough

Bryant University photo

Steve Owens/Bryant University photo

Bryant University is fast becoming a Northeast power

article by Douglas S. Malan

Bryant University head coach Steve Owens knows the realities of building a mid-major program in the Northeast – the limited resources, the outdoor practices in 35-degree January weather, the early-season road trips.

But he also knows the benefits of the grind, as he has created a national presence on the campus of this Smithfield, Rhode Island, school with 3,500 students.

Owens has spent his 25-year coaching career in New York and Rhode Island, turning Cortland State (NY) into a Division III power before leading Division I Le Moyne College to multiple regional appearances in the 2000s. When the Dolphins reclassified to Division II, Owens left to lead Bryant, which was elevating to Division I after several successful years at the Division II level.

Since 2011, Bryant has become the winningest program in the Northeast. The transition to Division I meant the Bulldogs were ineligible for the postseason for three years, but they made the most of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013 when they knocked off Arkansas in Manhattan, Kansas. They returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, and they wrapped up their fifth-consecutive Northeast Conference regular season championship in mid-May while hitting the 40-win mark again with one of the nation’s highest winning percentages.

Owens recently spent some time with Inside Pitch discussing his program.

What is your coaching philosophy?

Bryant is built primarily on freshmen players every year, guys who will be here for three or four years. Consistency is very important. I’ve never had a losing season in 25 years and I think that how we develop our younger guys is very important to that. I’ve never been at a school where I could just hand-pick any kind of player. Here we have to recruit kids that have good grades and that ultimately may be a little underexposed. We try to recruit very athletic kids and then we work very hard to develop them. I’ve had probably close to 50 pro players and I think only one or two have ever been drafted out of high school.

Between them being in a good culture and being really hard on them and having our kids see successful players in front of them and want to be that guy, we have a nice foundation. When we leave a field, whether we win or lose, I think the greatest compliment we can get is, “Your kids play really hard and they’re fun to watch,” whether that’s from another coach, scouts or fans. That’s something we’re proud of – how we compete.

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