Grand Rapids Community College new men’s basketball coach Jeff Bauer is a family man with a desire to win.
Bauer has experience at the NCAA Division I and II levels, including 11 years at his alma mater, Grand Valley State University. Bauer believes that the experience he’s gained over almost 30 years will aid him greatly in his new position.
“I haven’t seen everything…but I’ve seen a lot of things,” Bauer said. “…I’ve witnessed and coached a lot of different things. So I think my ability to adjust to our personnel is gonna be big. Throughout my career I’ve been able to coach every type of kid from every type of background. I hope those experiences will allow me to blend in and be a good mentor to whoever we bring through these doors here at Grand Rapids (Community College).”
Bauer, 44, of Newaygo, has an interesting coaching background. He started coaching high school ball in 1993, then was an assistant at Central Michigan University in the late 90’s. He eventually became an assistant at GVSU for 10 years and then went back to coaching at the high school level in 2016.
“I’ve been around a little bit,” Bauer said. “The travel and the recruiting was a big piece and a big appeal. I didn’t want to go back to a level that was going that was gonna get me on the road. Here I think I have the best of both worlds. I get to be back in college, and the travel is not that far.”
Bauer stated that he stepped away from GVSU in 2016 because he and his wife wanted to start a family.
“We wanted to raise a couple of kids,” Bauer said. “We have two boys now so I chose to get out of (being a college coach), just to get off the recruiting trail. That included a lot of crazy traveling and I wanted to be there for the first couple years of my kids’ lives. So I took a couple high school jobs, coaching West Ottawa from the girls’ side, helped out at Allendale High School with their boys’ varsity team, and now we’re here.”
Bauer said that being able to coach at a great school is what made the GRCC job so appealing to him.
“The facilities, the tradition, and the institutions that we have here are great,” Bauer said. “The geography was tremendous for me. I’m from West Michigan. My wife is from West Michigan. We made a decision quite a while ago that we don’t want to leave West Michigan. And then I think the junior college level is conducive to why I coach. Obviously the basketball piece is important, but the junior college world is kind of a two-year gateway into betterment, on the basketball court, in the classroom and in life. This is hopefully not a final destination for most guys, so the ability to help them grow in that two years and really help them become better at everything is really what appealed to me.”
Bauer believes that the players will respond well to him because one of his strengths is “connecting with kids.”
“I think a couple things that I have kinda built in me is that I don’t take myself too seriously,” Bauer said. “I mean I’m going to run the program don’t get me wrong, but I have a vulnerable side, too. I’m not afraid to self-deprecate myself to open up and let the players see me in a different light. I also think student athletes are smart. Sometimes people don’t give them enough credit. I think you just have to be honest with them and treat them like men, and they’ll respect that, too.”
Bauer knows that he has big shoes to fill, but said he believes he’s up to the task.
“Not just with Coach (Luke) Bronkema, but Coach (Kelly) McEwen as well. He went to nationals,” Bauer said. “But you want to go to a place where you want to win, and where they expect to be successful. That’s who I am, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Bauer played basketball in high school, but said he “didn’t quite make the cut for any college clubs.” When he’s not coaching, he enjoys sports and spending time with his family.
“I have two young boys, ages 2 and 1, so every day is a new thing and they’re doing something new that they weren’t doing the day before. And when we can we’ll just gather with family and just kinda hang out.”
GRCC Athletic Director Bill Firn stated that Bauer was the candidate that stood out the most during the coaching search.
“We had a really strong pool of candidates for this position, which made my job a little harder,” Firn said. “We were excited to see that caliber of coaches, and Jeff kinda rose to the top in that process. We were really excited about his background and his experience. He has a great vision (for this program). It’s more than just basketball. He’s trying to build young men and get them prepared for a four-year school.”