A coaching career defined by more than wins and losses
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A coaching career defined by more than wins and losses

BEMIDJI, Minn. – With 147 wins, former head coach Dr. Karl Salscheider has won more games than any other Bemidji State men’s basketball bench boss in the 92-year history of the program. He is also quick to point out - with a smile - that he has lost more games than any other head coach in program history, but those wins and losses don’t define the career of a man who has shaped so many lives.

After 32 and a half years at BSU, 13 of which he served as head coach of the men’s basketball program (1981-85, 1986-95), Salscheider is retiring at the end of Fall semester. He as served as a head coach, a faculty member and chair of the Human Performance, Sport and Health Department (HPSH) and as a mentor to countless students and student-athletes.

One of those student-athletes is David Lee (1984-88), who still stands as the all-time leading scorer at BSU and is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame (2013).

“He not only taught me a lot about basketball, but a lot about how I carry myself off the court,” Lee said. “He is such a great family man and made it really easy to come here and play for him.”

Another former player and graduate assistant coach under Salscheider, Tim Buckley (player, 1984-86 and coach, 1986-88), who was inducted into the BSU Athletics Hall of Fame as an alumni coach in 2012, commented on why he stuck around Bemidji State after playing.  

“It was as much the person as it was the coaching style,” Buckley said. “Coach cared a lot about basketball, but he cared a lot more about you and how you lived your life.”

Salscheider did care about his student-athletes, and even now after nearly 20 years removed from his final season as a coach, looks back and defines his career by the relationships he built with his players.

“To see them become successful in the workplace, as well as with their families is what I see as success,” Salscheider said.

“I truly enjoy seeing these guys grow as quality human beings and dedicate themselves to working extremely hard.”

Off the court, Salscheider guided his student-athletes to an 83 percent graduation rate during his 13 seasons, while on the court setting records and creating firsts for a program not accustomed to success.

Salscheider came to Bemidji State in 1981 after an outstanding run as head coach at Eastern Wyoming Community College where he had 12 full scholarships. Wanting to be closer to where he grew up, Barron, Wis., he took a BSU job that offered just three scholarships. After taking over a program that went 1-24, in his first year BSU won just four games, but followed with five straight double-digit victory seasons. In 1983-84, his third season at the helm, Salscheider guided the Beavers to a 15-14 record for the team’s first winning season in nearly 10 years and a trip to the postseason. The next season, the Beavers recorded their first postseason victory in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 13 Playoffs.

“We couldn’t win games expressively on my personality, charm and good looks,” Salscheider said laughing. “We had to go out and get players and be organized with recruiting.”

After a year hiatus from coaching the Beavers to pursue his doctorate degree at University of Utah, Salscheider returned to coach BSU to seven more 10-win seasons, which included a 15-11 mark in 1993-94, a year in which BSU received its first ever NCAA Division II regional ranking. Despite the fact he overcame limited scholarships and resources and still found success, Salscheider feels he just missed finding the consistency to produce above .500 records to really close out his career.

“We had our years and some great wins, but perhaps that is my story, it just wasn’t quite as good as it could have been,” Salscheider said.

His coaching career may not have met his expectations, but his coaching abilities and style were never questioned by his student-athletes.

“I thought he put me in positions where the team and myself could be successful,” Buckley said. “I always played on better teams when I was put in a role and stuck to that role. We had some talented players, so I just needed to do my job. Defend, rebound and make shots.”

“He let us play,” Lee said. “When he needed to get on us, he got on us and made his point. He looked at everyone’s strength and geared everything towards that. I thought he was a great game manager.”

Salscheider ended his coaching career in 1995 to focus on being a father to his five children, but remained at BSU as a faculty member and became an advocate for coaches as the chair of the HPSH department. He was instrumental in getting the administration to change the appointment of head coaches from 42 percent coaching/58 percent teaching to 75 percent coaching/25 percent teaching. The change has enabled the athletic department as a whole to grow over the last decade.  

Now just weeks from retirement, Salscheider can look back on his 32 and a half years at Bemidji State and take pride in his accomplishments.

“My greatest accomplishment would be the triad of development personally,” Salscheider commented. “I was able to coach with some level of success, got my doctoral degree and had a place of employment that gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do.

“Bemidji State is a great place to work. Not only do I have my personal family here, I have a family of faculty and staff. This has been a haven for me.”

For more information on the Bemidji State men’s basketball program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUHoops or @BSUBeavers), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/Bemidji-State-Basketball or facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Mulitmedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.

Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).