MEN’S BASKETBALL: McKowen finding own path as Upper Iowa’s head coach

MARSHALL – Brooks Mckowen has returned home.

After spending two seasons as an assistant on Brad Bigler’s Southwest Minnesota State staff, McKowen is now blazing his own coaching path at Upper Iowa University.

Last night’s 96-75 victory over the Mustangs broke a nine-game losing streak when playing Minnesota State on the road. It also marked the first victory for McKowen over his old staff.

The Mustangs won the first meeting of the season 83-73 at Upper Iowa.

Coming back to the R/A Facility and sitting on the opposite bench has created a mix of emotions for McKowen.

“It has been a little emotional,” McKowen said. ” I learned so much from coach Bigler in the two years I was here, not just as a coach, but as a person. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. I learned how to be a better man and to be a better basketball coach. I wouldn’t trade my time here (SMSU) for anything in the world.”

While on the coaching staff at SMSU, the Mustangs finished 35-25 overall record and a 28-16 record in the conference. His first year on the job, they finished second in the NSIC while reaching the conference tournament championship and the NCAA DII national tournament.

McKowen took over a program that finished 20-12 and made the NCAA DII Central Regional Tournament, their best season since the Peacocks joined the DII ranks for the 2006-2007 season.

McKowen admitted that he didn’t feel any pressure in taking over a program that is on the upswing.

“I was excited,” McKowen said. ” I knew I was going to get good kids- not only good basketball players, but good kids. I knew what I was getting into and it’s home for me. I’m only a half hour from where I grew up.”

The Fairbank, Iowa native went played basketball at Northern Iowa, where he helped the Panthers to three 20-win season and three trips to the NCAA tournament.

He finished his playing career as the single-season assists record and was fourth all-time in games played. He finished with 856 career points.

McKowen also spent three seasons with the UNI coaching staff following his graduation in 2007 with a physical education degree. He would later earn his masters in physical education from UNI in 2009.

For Bigler, he has enjoyed seeing what his former assistant is doing with the program at UI.

“I’m proud of Brooks and he’s going to be a great head coach,” Bigler said following the loss to the Peacocks Saturday night. “They had a great gameplan tonight. They took advantage of a lot of our mistakes. I’m happy for those guys and I’m looking forward to monitoring their progress the rest of the season.”