Steve Schweer can only contain his competitiveness for so long.
During the media availability of his on-campus interview for the UW-La Crosse men’s basketball coach position on Monday, Schweer spoke about how he sees the Eagles program as one ready to reach the next level. One can hear how badly we wants to win, not just in general, but in UW-L’s conference, the WIAC.
“This is a big-time job,” Schweer said. “That’s why I wanted to pursue it. This is the best league in the country, and I want a chance to compete at the highest level.”
He knows first-hand how tough WIAC competition has been in recent years and was this season. Schweer’s North Central College (Ill.) — where he’s been an assistant for the past two seasons — lost in the NCAA Division III national tournament to Stevens Point on Friday.
Schweer was the third candidate to interview for the Eagles job, as Winona State assistant Zach Malvik and UW-L interim coach and former UW-Stevens Point assistant Kent Dernbach interviewed last week.
As a key reserve for four seasons at Illinois Wesleyan, Schweer played in four NCAA tournaments, and has coached in two more. The Eagles haven’t made the tournament since 2006. He said infrastructure is in place to be successful at UW-L, and that he would be focused on recruiting and developing players ready to make that jump and establishing the right culture in the program.
“The best way to win games is to get off the bus with the best players. But there’s so much more that goes into building a championship-type team than that,” Schweer said. “Having kids with the right mindset and the right approach … to win tough games, on the road, night in and night out is just as important.”
Before his time at North Central, Schweer was an assistant basketball and head men’s golf coach at Monmouth College. He also served as the assistant athletic director at Monmouth.
Schweer said that if he were hired, he would bring in a different style of play than UW-L has had under Dernbach and before him under Ken Koelbl, whose resignation in the fall prompted Dernbach’s interim hiring. He said he’s more in the middle of the spectrum between a motion offense — what the Eagles have run for years — and calling set plays each possession.
“I want to play up-tempo. I want to play in transition,” Schweer said. “Playing in transition gives you the chance for a couple easy buckets per game, and the games in this league are decided by a couple buckets either way.”
He emphasized, though, that regardless of the offensive style that his teams play tough defense. He noted that success in the WIAC over the past 15 years has been determined by which team can get stops.
“I want to defend, I want to take teams out of what they do, what they’re comfortable at,” Schweer said. “I want to force contested 2s. That’s the ideal.
“If this goes my way, I hope you’ll see kids playing with toughness, with a passion, and having fun.”
North Central, located in Naperville, Ill., gets a good deal of media coverage like La Crosse does. Schweer said he hopes he could build community support and interest through those channels.
“We’ll get this thing going in the right direction and have people rallying behind us, and the media’s a big piece of that,” he said. “It’s a face for our program to the public to give them access to us.”