Wildcats fans, there’s a new sheriff in town.
North Dakota State College of Science made a big announcement Tuesday afternoon, introducing former Minnesota State University-Moorhead coach Stu Engen as its new athletic director and men’s basketball coach.
Engen replaces recently-departed coach and A.D. Scott Schumacher, who accepted a coaching position at a Texas junior college in early May. He was introduced at a Tuesday on-campus press conference by NDSCS President Dr. John Richman.
“I was looking for someone that understood and valued the junior college experience,” Richman said of Engen. “...That’s when you know you have found the right person to join your team.”
Engen, of Minneapolis, notably spent nine seasons as men’s basketball coach of the MSUM Dragons through 2010.
“President Richman talks about coaching objectives to recruit, develop, market and win,” Engen said. “To me, when I look at my experiences at the two-year level, and what I see here at NDSCS, it makes me think of opportunity.”
Engen comes to the Wahpeton school only weeks after accepting a position as men’s coach of NCAA Division III school Lakeland College, Wisc., in late April. Engen said it was not easy making a second job switch in a short amount of time.
“It was difficult, but this opportunity presented itself and you can never control that,” Engen said. “Because it was less than a month in, I think it was easier to make a career change.”
As the school’s new A.D., Engen plans to work with the school community to expand the Wildcats.
“I'm going to work closely with the Catbacker Club as well as (women’s basketball coach) Paulette Stein and others,” Engen said. “The goal is to keep a smooth transition for what has been done, and try to bring some of my past experiences and enhance it.”
The new coach inherits a team that ranked in the NJCAA top-10 last season and also won the Region XIII championship under Schumacher. Schumacher’s Wildcat teams won the region three-out-of-four seasons.
“He did do a terrific job, as did others before him. This school has a history of winning basketball games, there's no question about it,” Engen said. “So there is a little bit of pressure there. At the same time, I'm confident in my abilities.”
Engen said his first priority to the basketball team is making contact with returning sophomores and incoming recruits and ensuring their commitment to the team.
“I hope they're on-board and as excited about it as I am. Those calls are going to be made in the next six-to-eight hours,” Engen said. “...Those kids need to hear from me today. Not tomorrow or the next day, today. ‘We just got done with the press conference, and I need to talk to you now.’”
As for future recruiting, Engen said he will favor a more local approach, drawing upon his connections in the region.
“I think we're going to take a localized approach and draw upon my experiences and contact with my home-base of Minneapolis. I think you'll see a recruiting model similar to the way (former men's) coach (Craig) Irwin did it,” Engen said. “Our make-up might be 60 percent Minnesota and North Dakota, and 20 percent Wisconsin. Maybe that last 20 percent will branch off to references we can get nationally. ... I think you just draw from your overall experiences, but the contacts I've made are only going to help here at NDSCS.”
Overall, the new coach and athletic director said he is excited to get going, and defend the basketball team’s Region XIII title.
“You better always be in the hunt for it,” Engen said. “That's the expectation here.”