Two words sum up Tim Swartzendruber’s 11-year tenure as McPherson College men’s basketball coach and I don’t think I’ll get one argument from the coaches who matched up with him throughout the years.
Swartzendruber today announced his resignation to take the athletic director job at Pratt Community College. He’ll be remembered for coaching the Bulldogs to the greatest moments in their history and how he handled himself professionally as I often referred to him as “Gentleman Tim.”
In my profession at this level, it sometimes becomes more than a writer-coach relationship. I have always considered Tim a good friend and I’ve admired him from the first day he stepped on to campus. Not only was he an outstanding coach, but he worked hard in the summer with the McPherson College Summer League that has brought in thousands of boys and girls and helped improve their game. He also had a youth camp in the summer that was well attended.
In addition, his players were out in the community, going to classrooms to read to grade-school children and performing other tasks.
On the surface, Swartzendruber’s final ledger of 170-173 is hardly overwhelming, but what he did the first half of his tenure will never be forgotten.
Hired after an excellent tenure at Hesston College and receiving a strong recommendation from retiring Bulldog coach Roger Trimmell, Swartzendruber had to basically recruit a brand-new team for his first year as he inherited just two players.
The result was a 14-14 season that gave instant reason for optimism. It also was a harbinger of a run that was unprecedented in the KCAC at the time.
The 2009-2010 season resulted in a 20-9 record and the first-ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament. Prior to heading to Point Lookout, Mo., the school held a big sendoff at the Sport Center that had fans packing the gym.
It was something the Bulldogs would soon get used to.
The 2010-11 season broke the school record for wins as the Bulldogs finished 21-14 and again qualified for the national tournament, magically making it all the way to the Elite 8, something few KCAC teams had ever done.
The 2011-12 season turned out to be pure storybook. The Bulldogs were 33-4, including 18-0 at the Sport Center as huge crowds turned out and every Mac game became an event. The Bulldogs went all the way to the Final Four before being eliminated.
Another reason the Bulldogs were wildly popular then was the strong Bullpup influence as MHS grads Aaron Frazier, Jordan Crawford, Chris Crawford and Adam Bruner were linchpins of the team.
The Bulldogs regressed in 2012-13 and they just slid into the playoffs as the No. 8 and final seed. But they put on a remarkable run and somehow won the KCAC Postseason Tournament to make it four straight trips to Point Lookout, where they had become a staple.
Finally the magic ran out. Swartzendruber’s last six years produced just a 67-114 record as the bloated KCAC expanded to include schools such as Oklahoma Wesleyan, York College and Avila. Recruiting became a rat race as other schools were bringing in players from all over the country and internationally.
The last couple of years, the losing took its toll on Swartzendruber. There were many heart-breaking losses, including a game at Ottawa this year where Mac led by 20 points with 10 minutes to go only to lose. While he always tried to put his best foot forward after games, it was obvious he was emotionally drained.
He will now watch games from courtside at Pratt. Maybe this was it for him or maybe a year away might recharge his batteries for one more coaching run.
All I know is that McPherson College’s loss will be Pratt Community College’s gain. I’m sure all of McPherson will be pulling for him to be successful no matter what the future holds.