New BC coach returning to alma mater

By Steve Sell
May 04, 2017

Bethany College has turned to its past to hopefully enhance its future.

Dan O’Dowd was introduced today as the Swedes' new men’s basketball coach by retiring coach Clair Oleen.

With Keith Ferguson about to begin his second year as women’s head basketball coach and Paul Hubbard ready to start Year 3 as the football coach, the three major sports are now in the hands of Bethany graduates who have rich knowledge of what it takes to win in Little Sweden.

O’Dowd is an interesting hire. He didn’t play basketball at Bethany when he attended school from 1982-86, but instead was part of the powerhouse Swede track and field program that dominated the KCAC scene when Jim Krob was the head coach before he departed for Fort Hays State.

But O’Dowd said during his press conference Thursday that he always loved basketball and often was around the late George Stephens and Oleen, soaking up their wisdom.

He now has 24 years of coaching experience, getting his start at the high school level under the legendary Willie Nicklin at Topeka High. He also spent time at Barton County Community College, where he was both an assistant coach and assistant athletic director.

What had to open the eyes of the search committee was O’Dowd’s time at the NCAA Division I level. He has been on the staffs of schools such as the University of Arizona, Ole Miss, University of Texas-San Antoino (where McPherson High grad Steve Henson is now the head coach) and North Texas State. 

O’Dowd said he never thought his career path would wind back to Lindsborg, a place he admitted he holds near and dear to his heart.

“No, to be honest, I didn’t,” he said. “And I think time has made things more special for me. When you’re a college graduate and first graduate, you’re excited about your new life and the uncertainty of it. As you go through life’s experiences you realize what you’ve learned along the way, certainly as a college student and college athlete... as you get along in life and you experience things, you learn where you gathered your values and where you gathered some of the characteristics you have in your life. Bethany definitely instilled those qualities and characteristics in me... I think as time has gone on, the value of Bethany College in my mind and my life has just grown and continues to grow. I couldn’t be more excited to be back.”

O’Dowd says he’s well aware of the tradition set by Stephens and Oleen. It’s not often at a school at this level that in 47 years there’s been only two coaches. 

Oleen hardly left the cupboard bare. The Swedes were 15-16 this past season, but lost a plethora of close games and took the best teams down to the wire. 

He does have some quality seniors to replace in Cody Harris, Joey Habtemariam, Jalen Thompson, Jerricus Funderburke and Ian Merzwinski, who logged a majority of minutes.

But he can rebuild around two of the best players in the KCAC in swingman Khalid Washington and versatile guard Tyler Larkin. Oleen used a lot of players in his rotation as the Swedes played at a fast pace.

Given O’Dowd’s vast contacts throughout the country, he's expected to bring in some high-level talent. But he won't forget top players who are close by.

“Obviously you’ve got to take care of home,” O’Dowd said. “Home is important and Kansas is home. There’s a lot of good players in Kansas... Kansas is a basketball state.”

But given how the KCAC has become a heavy transfer league, O’Dowd won’t hesitate to call on his experience as a D-I recruiter. He'll recruit from coast to coast, even overseas if need be. He said he wants to roll up his sleeves and get to work and make Bethany basketball a force to be reckoned with in the KCAC.