In search of stability

Mike Bauer

Consistency is a trademark of any successful athletics program.

To attain consistency, there must be stability, a quality that's been lacking in New Prairie basketball in recent years.

"One of the biggest hindrances to long-term success is we haven't had a stable coach, boys and girls," N.P. Athletics Director Ben Bachmann said. "That's the reason for our inconsistency."

Bachmann believes New Prairie took a step in that direction Monday with the hiring of Mike Bauer as boys basketball coach.

"You have to bring stability, a culture, to build a winner," Bauer said. "It's one of the things that attracted me to the job, to build that culture all the way down. You have to set the foundation at the lower levels to reap the benefits down the road. Every year, you'll see the benefit of that. It will continue to increase."

The school's fourth coach since 2015, Bauer knows that part of it takes time, but isn't conceding the prospect of immediate success at New Prairie, which hasn't won more than 12 games in that span.

"We're not just looking to have success four, five years down the road," he said. "The pieces are there to have some success now as well, as we build for a strong future. When other sports have success, kids are taught winning, competing at a high level, and that benefits all sports. If football, baseball, everything is doing well, you have a winning culture throughout the whole school, and that can only help the basketball team."

One notable difference will be New Prairie's style of play under Bauer, who won 77 games and two sectionals in five years at South Bend St. Joseph, where he spent 11 years coaching a variety of levels.

"I like to play uptempo and from what I've seen of what we have, the players are there to do well," he said. "We have good athletes, shooters, tough kids. All the attributes are there. We just have to fit them in. We want them to have fun, to buy in. Part of that is scoring points. When they see the ball go through the hoop, it gets them amped up to play defense. We don't want them to hold back. We want them to feel free to be aggressive. There will be mistakes here and there, but we're going to get after it."

Bauer coached from 2013 to 2018 before easing back to the freshman level last season for family reasons.

"I always knew I'd get back in, it just may not have been one year later," he said. "I'm excited. The community is tremendous. Everybody I meet, I'm really impressed with the support."

Bachmann said there were 20 applicants for the position, ranging from experienced coaches to assistants from "decent-sized" schools. Five from that group were given interviews.

"Mike definitely stood out," Bachmann said. "The committee was looking for someone they felt could build a program, who would be around to do that, and ultimately was the right fit. There was the balance of an education-based athletics philosophy, wanting to have true student-athletes, and obviously his past success at St. Joe. I think it says a lot about his character that he wanted to stay with the program and, from a St. Joe perspective, that they thought enough of him that they wanted him to stay within the program. It's a good academic situation, a athletic situation and with some stability, we'll see growth in both programs."

The challenge of the Northern Indiana Conference and a Class 3A sectional that includes Bauer's former employer is the one that he's ready to roll up his sleeves and tackle.

"You want that," he said. "That's how you get better and how you end up winning in the long run."

Bauer will be joined by Ben Wiginton, who is coming from St. Joe with him to be on his staff. 

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