Moving up the line in athletic leadership

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Former assistant men’s basketball coach, Paul Brunner, takes over as head coach of the women’s team

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“I learned a lot under coach Jon High during my time as an assistant, so making the move from assistant to head coach is not an easy one but I feel that I am well prepared,” Brunner said. Photo provided by Marketing.

Paul Brunner had served as assistant coach of the men’s basketball team for two seasons when NCU athletics director Greg Johnson approached him with the opportunity to fill Casey Rozowski’s shoes as head coach of the women’s basketball team.

“It was very hard to make the decision to step away from the men’s program, I have established some great relationships with the guys on the team,” Brunner said. “When Greg brought the opportunity to my attention, we decided that I would take some time to think it over and then get back to him with my decision.”

After discussing the major shift in leadership responsibility with his wife Abby, Brunner agreed to take the interim position.

“The expectations are that we go through the season and then reevaluate after it is over,” Brunner said. Taking on the role of head coach is a significant step for Brunner, but he is not new to leadership.

“I learned a lot under coach Jon High during my time as an assistant, so making the move from assistant to head coach is not an easy one but I feel that I am well prepared,” Brunner said.

In addition to his two years as the assistant men’s basketball coach, Brunner has also served as North Central’s assistant director of recreation & wellness. Supporting some of the weight of Brunner’s heftier responsibilities are assistant coaches Christina Goodman and Erin Westberg.

“Our relationship has been great so far,” Brunner said. “We have met several times to talk about expectations and my plans for the program. I have been very impressed with their willingness to step in wherever I ask them to. They both know the game extremely well and will help us immensely.”

With only a few games under their belt, Brunner said he has learned a lot about his team.

“They have done everything that I have asked of them and they show up every day, ready to work.” Brunner is proud of his team for being eager to learn, as they “become students of the game.”

One of his primary areas of focus is consistency and hard work, as he expects his team to “make all of the hustle plays and compete for every single possession.” Brunner wants to focus on doing the little things right at all times.

“We always say that ‘practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.’”

Additionally, Brunner believes his team will be one that takes pride in their defense while working for great shots on offense. Maintaining these seasonal expectations will be difficult amidst the sudden shift in leadership, but Brunner said he is very proud of the way his team has responded, and he believes they will continue to create an environment of excellence in all aspects.

“We want to exemplify the athletics tagline: ‘lead, compete, serve.’” Brunner said his players know he will push them to be great on and off the court. With faith being “the most important part of the program,” his team has weekly prayer, devotionals, testimonies and worship time.

“If our players are not growing in their faith, I am failing as a coach,” Brunner stated. Academic discipline is always a desired achievement, but the women’s basketball team has actually set team GPA goals.

“Players know that if they can’t get it done in the classroom, they will not have a chance to get it done on the court,” says Brunner. “We are not late to class and we do not skip class. We understand that our education will get us way farther than basketball ever will.”

However, that is not to say the basketball will not go farther into the postseason. The team had an admirable fifth place finish at nationals last year, and with six primary players returning, Brunner said, “Our main focus this season will be making the UMAC conference playoffs.”

Finally, Brunner added, “Last, I want to thank Greg Johnson for the opportunity to lead this team and I am excited about the future of the women’s program here at NCU. Go Rams!”