Reusse: Balza, now coach at Mankato's Bethany Lutheran, started FGCU program

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2013 - 6:44 AM

Dave Balza

David Balza’s passion for basketball landed him a student manager job for the Michigan Wolverines. That passion increased when the 1989 Wolverines won the national title.

He worked as a graduate assistant and video coordinator for Michigan. He was an assistant coach for Cleveland State and Ashland (Ohio). His first head coaching job was at St. Joseph’s (Ind.), in the Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference.

“It was a coach’s cradle in that conference,” Balza said. “There were a half-dozen of us who wound up coaching in Division I.”

St. Joseph’s was at the bottom of the league when Balza was hired in 1998.

“We also were going on probation,” he said. “The previous coach was paying players. I thought, ‘If you’re going to pay players, at least pay good ones.’ ”

Balza turned St. Joseph’s into a threat over the next three years. In 2000-01, he was the Coach of the Year in the conference and region. The GLVC’s commissioner, Carl McAloose, took notice.

McAloose had been hired to start a Division II sports program at Florida Gulf Coast, an almost-new university in Fort Myers, Fla. He convinced Balza to make a visit to a school without a gymnasium yet.

“We had a very good team coming back at St. Joseph’s, but I got there and saw what a beautiful place it was, and said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can have a powerhouse D-II program here,’ ” Balza said.

The men’s basketball team first played in the winter of 2002-03.

“We applied to D-II conferences all over the Southeast part of the country,” Balza said. “We even applied to a historically black conference. No one would take us.

“Finally, the Atlantic Sun, a Division I league, called and invited us to join. I guess when you’re looking for a date to the prom and suddenly the prettiest girl asks you, you say, ‘Of course.’ ”

FGCU announced in the fall of 2006 that it would be moving to D-I the next year. There was a four-year waiting period for postseason eligibility.

Balza’s Eagles went out and won 27 games in 2006-07 … their last chance to play in a national tournament before the D-I transition. The Eagles were passed up for the D-II tournament.

“Obviously, it was politics — they are going to D-I, so why invite ’em — but it’s hard to accept that when your players are in a room, crying,” Balza said.

Balza’s teams averaged 23 victories for eight seasons: five in D-II and three in D-I. He was working under his third university president and third athletic director in 2010-11, when the total fell to 10 victories.

“The first couple of years of the transition to D-I, it was tough to recruit with no chance at the postseason,” Balza said. “We had some good young players on that last team, but I got called in and was fired.”

Laughing slightly Balza said: “Better than getting a text like Tubby [Smith], I guess.”

Balza took a job at Bethany Lutheran, a Division III school in Mankato. On Wednesday, he taught a class as part of his duties. Meantime, his FGCU replacement, Andy Enfield, was preparing the Eagles for Friday night’s Sweet 16 game against the Florida Gators.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Minnesota 2
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Washington 1
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 4
NY Yankees 10 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Tampa Bay 0 Cancelled
Baltimore 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 6
Texas 6 FINAL
Oakland 7
Cleveland 2 FINAL
Arizona 3
Arizona 7 FINAL
LA Angels 2
Miami 0 Cancelled
Houston 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 5
San Francisco 8 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
San Diego 7
Milwaukee 8 FINAL
Cincinnati 6
Detroit 111 FINAL
Orlando 97
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Philadelphia 98
Charlotte 107 FINAL
Washington 110
Boston 96 FINAL
New York 92
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Brooklyn 106
LA Lakers 83 FINAL
Toronto 94
Miami 86 FINAL
Atlanta 99
Golden State 107 FINAL
Memphis 84
Sacramento 88 FINAL
New Orleans 102
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Houston 120
Dallas 76 FINAL
San Antonio 94
Utah 91 FINAL
Denver 107
Portland 87 FINAL
Phoenix 81
Calgary 2 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 5 FINAL
Chicago 2
Dallas 0 FINAL
Edmonton 4
Gonzaga 74
NC State 65 FINAL
Louisville 75
Utah 57 FINAL
Duke 63
Kent State 73 FINAL
Northern Ariz 74
Michigan State 62 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
(15) North Carolina 65 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 67
(18) Iowa 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 81
(9) Arizona State 65 FINAL
(7) Florida State 66
(14) Stanford 60 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 81
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question