|Coach Stowell • Stowell Web exclusives|
From the court to the air: How Coach “Stowell” the show
Spend a few minutes with Joe Stowell ’50 MA ’56 and you will inevitably get an education in basketball from the former Bradley student, basketball player, and coach.
He’ll tell how he taught players to rebound with aggressiveness, explained the art of diving out-of-bounds for a loose ball on the raised floor at Robertson Memorial Field House, and showed his granddaughter, Dana, how to make a lay-up with her left hand. All with hand motions and perfect descriptions for his listener, like his living room is a Bradley gymnasium, complete with Field House seats in the corner.
And then there are his stories about teaching hoops abroad.
Stowell said he has represented Bradley in more foreign countries (23) than any University professor or coach. He’s been asked by the U.S. State Department and the People-to-People Committee to conduct basketball clinics abroad.He also coached an MVC All-Star team in Brazil, and a Bradley team in a Christmas tournament in Spain.
He even coached the Egyptian National team in 1984, when they won the African Championships and qualified for the Olympic Games.
“I looked at it as a challenge,” said the 78-year-old Stowell, who put up the first break-away basketball hoop in South America. “I looked at it as a chance to help basketball programs. I never found a place I didn’t like. You find good people everywhere you go.”
And the people liked him too. In fact, former Bradley president Dr. Martin Abegg received several letters complimenting Stowell, including a letter from the president of the World Association of Basketball Coaches. One letter from the Uruguay Federation of Basketball stated, “Coach Stowell is very much in love with the game and attempts to give all of his strong personality in every conference, in each one of his talks and practical demonstrations. We know we have a friend in him, and at the same time, he is a good ambassador for your country.”
On several occasions, he was asked to return for a second clinic. “Once you go some place, and they like what you’re doing, you’re invited back,” said Stowell, whose books and pamphlets have been published in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Arabic.
He made such an impression that Qatar, a small country bordering Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay, a South American nation, offered him coaching positions. In 1980, Uruguay offered to pay him $48,000 a year. His twin sons, Jim ’83 MBA ‘85 and Jon, were offered $500 to work with younger age groups. Stowell’s family would be provided housing and transportation.
“I did think twice about it,” Stowell said. “But I’ve been here all my life, my friends are here, and I was raising a family here, so I decided against it.”
Instead, he continued his travels, often running into language barriers. He usually had a translator at his side, yet he found it easier to show people how to practice what he explained.
“You often lose something in the translation,” he said. “Usually the translator is not very basketball oriented. So I would always put something on the blackboard, then go to the gym and show them what was just translated.”
While recruiting wasn’t a priority, Stowell said he always saw himself as an ambassador and tried to teach basketball to his best ability. “You always try to do a good job,” he said. “You’re always representing Bradley, you’re representing Peoria, and you’re representing the United States. So I’m going to try and work harder than anyone who is going to be there.”
Diving at the Field House
Before the 1981-82 season, Stowell had coached only men’s basketball, including 13 seasons at Bradley and two seasons at Armington and Peoria high schools.
“I was asked to coach the women’s team in 1981,” Stowell said. “I hadn’t coached women before, but I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t, so I said sure.”
In two seasons, his women’s team won 33 games, including 19 wins in his first season, during the program’s transition from Division II to Division I.
Among Stowell’s practice drills was a loose-ball dive on the sidelines of the raised floor at Robertson Memorial Field House. He would set up two lines of players, then toss the ball out of bounds for one player to hit back to the other line.
“Girls weren’t used to being that aggressive,” Stowell said. “They would stumble or step down, and I said, ‘No, that’s not the way you get it done.’ I would take a headfirst dive, tip it back in, and come within six inches of going off the floor. I’d say, ‘You don’t have to go off the floor, but you’ve got to get the ball. Probably 90 percent of the time, you’re not going to go off the floor. There’s not going to be many chances, but if you get that chance, you want to get that ball.’”
20 years as the eyes and ears
Stowell and Dave Snell ’76 will begin their 20th season broadcasting Bradley basketball games together on WMBD-AM 1470 in November. But their relationship began long before their first radio broadcast at the beginning of the magical 1985-86 season, in which the Braves won their first NCAA tournament game in 30 years.
The duo met before a 1967 banquet at the Pekin Elks Club. Stowell was the guest speaker, and Snell, a Pekin High School student, was the emcee at the event celebrating Pekin’s boys’ basketball state championship.
“Before he spoke, I introduced Coach Stowell in his voice,” said Snell, director of development for the College of Education and Health Sciences. “That’s where I first met him.”
Said Stowell: “He had my voice down then. He got up and started using my voice, telling jokes and telling things about Dawdy (Hawkins, Pekin’s boys’ basketball coach at the time). It was really funny.”
Snell says he continues to learn from Stowell. “I learn something from him usually at every game,” Snell said. “He’ll say something in a timeout that I hadn’t picked up.”