Bethany College coach Dan O’Dowd chats with his players during Saturday’s shoot-around at UTSA. Video: thejbreplay.com
Dan O’Dowd walked into the UTSA Convocation Center Friday and angled toward the corridor leading into the home team dressing room.
“I started heading in there and, ‘Oh wait,’ ” he said, smiling.
Forgive the first-year head coach of the Bethany College Swedes for making a wrong turn on his first trip back to the ‘Bird Cage.’
Some things you do in life are just reflex, especially if you’re O’Dowd, and you’ve spent 10 years of your career working out of the home of the Roadrunners.
O’Dowd admitted Saturday morning that it’s an emotional visit for him as his Kansas-based NAIA team prepares to play a road game against UTSA tonight.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. between the Swedes and the NCAA Division I Roadrunners.
“You know, San Antonio is home,” O’Dowd said. “My wife and kids are still here. Our oldest finished high school last year. The youngest is a junior and we wanted him to finish school and sports with all the kids he’s grown up with.
“So, it’s like coming home. You know, I spent a lot of time in this gym. It’s just fun to see the changes and improvements that they’ve made.”
O’Dowd, a Colorado native and a Bethany graduate, worked for a decade at UTSA through 2016 under the late Brooks Thompson.
After UTSA, he moved on to work for a year at North Texas, before taking the job at Bethany last May.
Nick Allen, one UTSA’s hottest players at the moment, said it was fun to see O’Dowd again on Friday.
The two were able to catch up in a brief conversation.
“He just wanted to see how I was doing,” Allen said.
It was sort of like Allen’s first meeting with the coach, when O’Dowd visited his high school on a recruiting trip.
Of the first meeting, Allen remembers the coach being “really cool, really relaxed.”
“But you could tell he was serious,” said Allen, from Surprise, Arizona. “He was about his business when he came in. Just a good guy. I don’t know. I didn’t get any bad vibes from him. He’s the one that recruited me here. So I’ve got a lot of appreciation for him, a lot of respect for him.
“He’s a great coach. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here. He’s a good dude. He means a lot to me.”
Dane Pavlovich, Bethany’s dean of athletics and student development, said it’s been fun to watch O’Dowd at work in his first year.
“He’s been a joy to work with,” Pavlovich said. “He also serves as assistant athletic director. So he helps us out with game management for football games and all the different other events.
“He’s really thrown himself into being a part of the Bethany culture. Being an alum, the job isn’t too small for him.
“He’s coached at some of the highest levels of NCAA basketball … but he’s thrown himself into (this job), being a part of the Bethany campus and the Lindsborg community … It’s been a lot of fun.”
O’Dowd, who has worked as an assistant at high-major jobs at Ole Miss and Arizona State, said he’s enjoying being the head coach.
“As an assistant coach for 30 years, you have a special relationship with your players, but you’re not the guy. Being head coach is fun, just the respect factor they have for you is a little bit different,” he said. “But it doesn’t change much. Biggest difference is that as an assistant you’re making suggestions. As a head coach you’re making decisions.
“I’ve been fortunate to work for coaches that prepared me for that. Whether its dealing with the media, going out (and) speaking at fundraisers, everything that I’ve needed to do to be prepared. So, it’s been a lot of fun.”