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January 27, 1989 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-27

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EMU basketball coach Ben Braun
thrives on the challenge of the
college game.


Sports Writer

asketball point guards
are often called "coaches
on the floor?' Ben Braun,
35, a former point guard
at New Trier High
School in Chicago, parlayed that
leadership role into a major college
coaching career.
Braun took over as - Eastern
• Michigan
University's head basket-
ball coach 11 games into the 1985-86
season. In his second full season at
Eastern last year, Braun guided the
to a 22-8 overall record, 14-2 in
the Mid-American Conference. The
Hurons won their first-ever MAC
regular-season title, then took the
conference tournament to earn an
NCAA berth.
Braun's leadership skills were
I- forged on the court. As a point guard,
he explains, "I had to always be a
leader and do some things at times
that were unpopular, as leaders do.
But you've got to really take some
stands sometimes as a• leader,
whether it's a coach or a player, and
do what it takes for your teams to
Since graduating from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison
with a teaching degree in English in
1975, Braun has either taught, coach-
► - ed, or both. "Teaching and coaching
are very similar," he says.
Braun was the assistant basket-
o ball coach at Park High School in
Racine, Wis., in 1975-76 and 1976-77.
He became head coach at Siena
Heights College in 1977. In eight
0°' seasons at the Adrian school Braun
compiled a 148-103 record. In 1981-82
he was voted NAIA Michigan Coach
of the Year.
Braun moved to Eastern in 1985
as an assistant. He became head
coach when Jim Boyce resigned.
Braun guided the team to a 5-10
record. The Hurons improved to 14-15
overall, 8-8 in the MAC, in Braun's
first full season. After last year's suc-
cessful campaign Braun was voted


MAC Coach of the Year as well as
Michigan College Coach of the Year
by the Basketball Coaches Associa-
tion of Michigan.
Braun likes to play an up-tempo
game using pressure defense and a
fast-break offense. But his preferences
meant little when he inherited
Boyce's team three years ago. "We had
the tallest and biggest team in the
league," Braun recalls, so he could not
play a fast-paced game. Now that
most of Braun's players are ,his own
recruits, he has molded a team closer
to his image. • "Just recently we've
been able to get quicker players who
are helping us now and I think we're
looking for that style. I think players
enjoy that style. But it takes a lot of -
work. You've got to work harder if you
choose to run that style?'
Recently Braun was selected to
coach the U.S. team at the World Mac-
cabiah Games in Israel this July.
The Maccabiah post will
challenge Braun in several ways. One
will be to find the time for both the
Hurons and the Maccabiah team. Col-
lege coaching is a full-year job which
includes scouting, recruiting and
working with some of your existing
players in the off-season. Braun will
soon meet with officials from the U.S.
Committee Sports for Israel to decide
on tryout dates and sites for the Mac-
cabiah squad. He also hopes to set up
training camps and begin the process
of selecting assistant coaches.
Braun was concerned with the
amount of time he would have to put
in as the Maccabiah basketball coach,
but decided to grab the job anyway.
"I do feel strongly about the op-
portunity to coach the team. I think
it's a great opportunity for me. I think
as a coach it's a. learning experience.
By the same token I've got a lot of
pride and competitive spirit and I
think it's a challenge that I don't
think I can turn down at this point.
It's also a competition between
Jewish players around the world and
I think that's another tie I'd like to
be involved in . . . I hope I'm not
biting off more that I can swallow."

Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Ben Braun.

Braun, who has relatives in good players on the court but good
Israel, was last there in 1971. He does people off the court," which includes
not know what type' of team or how the classroom. "Wins are nice but if
much talent the U.S. squad will have. we were winning and people weren't
But he believes that other countries getting their degrees it wouldn't
will have older, more experienced make me very happy as a coach:'
squads and that the U.S. team will
Braun tries to establish a rela-
tionship with his players and tries to
consist mainly of collegians.
At Eastern, Braun's recruiting work to improve their attitudes just
strategy involves "trying to get as he works to improve their court
players who are a little quicker, skills.
"That's important to me," he says.
maybe a little hungrier. Sometimes I
you can find out a lot about
have players that aren't as big and
by their character. That
strong, but maybe they're quicker.
the question of why some
Those players seem to answer
challenges just because they play teams win even with less talent.
Because they have character. They've
against bigger players?'
Recruiting talented players is just got good chemistry and good peo-
one aspect of college coaching. ple; they're diligent, dedicated. You've
Motivating those players to give their got to try to find those people if you
best performance is another. "I want to win consistently.
believe very strongly in players work-
"We spend a lot of time on the
ing to develop their potential. That's team philosophy. That's tough for a
what coaching's all about is getting lot of players who were the star of
your players to perform up to their their high school team or junior col-
potential . . . Everybody would like to lege team. They come in here and all
win, but if your players play above the of a sudden, maybe have to scale down
level that they're supposed to play at, their individual contributions and
or at least at the top of the leirel that sacrifice some things for the team.
they're supposed to play at, you're do- That's always a tough thing to preach.
ing a good job.
And teaching kids how to play
"We try to get our players to be defense and to do the things that give
more than one-dimensional. Not just themselves up for the team; That's




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