No matter what happens Saturday afternoon when the Mustangs close out the regular season one thing is certain; it will be the last home game for Coach Mark Coleman. After 29 years of coaching college basketball, Coleman will be stepping down as WNMU men’s basketball coach to focus on family and his duties as Athletic Director for Western New Mexico.
Coach came to WNMU at a time when the program was making national and regional news for all the wrong reasons. Coleman hit the ground running in 2003 and things were rocky at first. But as Coach began to recruit his style of players, the Mustangs began to win, first in the Heartland Conference and then when the Mustangs returned to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Coleman took the Stangs to the RMAC playoffs in 2008 for the first time then returned to the post season in 2011. The Mustangs could make another appearance in the postseason this year with a win over NM Highlands on Saturday. Almost as importantly Coleman has brought an excitement back to Mustang basketball that has been missing since Dick “Drag” Drangmeister roamed the sidelines in the 70’s and 80’s. The roar of an excited crowd is once again shaking the rafters of Brancheau Field House as the Mustangs have developed an unrivaled home court advantage under Coach Coleman’s tutelage.
There have been a lot of great wins over the last decade including knocking off #9 Mesa State or the two wins over nationally ranked programs this season, #13 Adams State University and #20 Fort Lewis College. Let’s not forget all the exciting games like beating Ft. Lewis 5 of the last 6 years with two overtime games and 5 games decided by a total of 13 points.
Coleman and the Mustangs were never one to back down from a challenge either, taking on one of the toughest non-conference schedules in D-II. Whether it’s playing in state schools, NMSU or UNM, the 2010-11 season when the Mustangs took on six different NCAA Division I schools or taking on the top D-II schools like Chaminade, Hawaii-Hilo or Grand Canyon, Coleman always challenged his players to be the best.
Prior to coming to Western, Mark began his coaching career in 1983 as an assistant at Vermont followed by short stints at Canisius and George Mason, where he helped the Patriots get to the NIT post season tournament for the first time in the school’s history. He then took a job as a top assistant at Pitt where he was responsible for recruiting and scouting. During his eight years helping to guide that program, the Panthers made five NCAA tournament appearances and earned two Big East Conference titles.
As a player, Coleman hit the floor at St. Lawrence University where he was a three time all conference selection, team captain and MVP as a senior and led the Saints to two D-III NCAA tournament appearances.
Throughout his 29 years in the coaching ranks Coleman has seen seven former players enter the NBA including Charles Smith of the NY Knicks and Eric Mobley of the then Vancouver Grizzlies. Coach has also sent a number of players into other professional leagues including former Mustangs Casey Crevelone, a top player in the Australian professional basketball league and Trey Clarkson, who won an Italian league national championship a couple of years ago.
But more importantly Coleman recruits players who graduate and go on to be successful in other careers. His student-athletes graduate at one of the highest rates in the RMAC having successful careers in coaching, business, politics or education.
This weekend the Mustang faithful will have one last chance to see their coach roam the sidelines, ‘consulting’ with officials, exhorting his team to a win and taking the Mustangs to another post season appearance. It will also be senior day with the Stangs saying goodbye to five players along with Coach Coleman. Admission is free with the first 100 kids getting free T-shirts and a ceremony after the game to include player recognition and free cake.
Game time is 1:00 for the Lady Stangs and 3:00 for the Mustangs.