From backyard hoops to pro player: Coach Gouard’s lifetime of basketball

For Head Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Gouard, basketball is more than just a game. Since the early years of Gouard’s childhood, basketball has been a constant presence in his life. As a child, Gouard had a basketball hoop in his backyard where he would play against his three older brothers.

“I thought that made me tougher [playing against his older brothers],” Gouard said. “When you’re as young as eight you get knocked around a little bit…Those guys kind of made me who I am today.”

Gouard played both football and basketball in middle school and high school in this hometown of Danville, Ill.. He was the quarterback and point guard positions respectively, but gravitated more towards basketball as he grew taller. According to Gouard, he was cut from his high school team during his junior year, but made the team again his senior year, winning the team’s Most Valuable Player and Big 12 All-Conference Player.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for me, sitting out for a year,” Gouard said. “It hurt a whole lot, because at the time I felt I should have been playing. But I kind of understood what the coach was doing because I just wasn’t good enough.”

After high school, Gouard had no scholarship offers to play basketball in college initially. He walked-on at Parkland College, but was eventually cut from the team. He then turned to play at Danville Community College.

“I tried to play there [Danville] and didn’t make the team,” Gouard said. “Not because of talent, but because of my actions off of the court. I was not mentally locked in and not on board with what the coach wanted to do at the time.”

Gouard said, however, that he maintains great relationships today with the coaches that cut him years ago. He went on to play in the Prairie State Games, an Olympic-like games in Illinois, where he played against Deon Thomas, Mr. Illinois Basketball at the time. After competing in the games, Gouard received offers from several colleges to play in their basketball programs.

He then played for over a year at John A. Logan College, earning  Junior
College All-American during his first season, but was injured during his second season. Gouard went on to play for the University of Southern Indiana. Although he had offers from Division I schools, he would have only been able to play for one year, so he chose to play in Division II so he could play two years and complete his undergraduate degree. During his two and a half seasons at USI, Gouard had a career record of 82-12, won the NCAA DII National Championship during his second year First Team All-American and DII National Player of the year, both for two years in a row.

Gouard then went to play
professionally in Sweden,
Colombia and De Moines, Iowa for the International
Basketball Association. He briefly played for the Idaho Stampede for the
Continental Basketball Association, a minor league of the National Basketball Association, now known as the National Basketball Development League. He played professionally for four years before retiring from playing.

“I look back at all the places I’ve been and all the things I’ve done because of basketball,” Gouard said. “I lived in Sweden because of basketball, I spent some time in South America because of basketball, Mexico, Finland, Denmark… I got a chance to see the world from playing basketball.”

Gouard then worked as an academic advisor at John A. Logan while also working as the Director of Carbondale Junior Sports, a basketball league for underprivileged children, according to Gouard. He then went on to work as an assistant coach at USI before being an assistant coach at the University of Indianapolis for three years and two years at Indiana State University. After the coaching staff was fired from ISU, according to Gouard, he came to work at UIndy in his current position.

According to Gouard, the decision to coach was a no-brainer because he wanted to remain close to the game of basketball. He said that the transition from player to coach has caused him to view the game differently, but that his drive to win and to compete is still as strong as when he was a player. Gouard said the coaches his players with intensity and tries to build up their mental fortitude.

“I’m trying to get these guys to see the bigger picture,” Gouard said. “When I have them up doing 6 a.m. runs they see that as punishment, but I’m really just trying to prepare them and build that mental toughness.”

According to Gouard, he has even made players sit out of games for being late or absent to class.

“In the real world, when you go out and get a job and you’re showing up late to work you’re going to get fired,” Gouard said. “These guys are student-athletes not athlete-students and it’s important that they know that.”

Although he is competitive and wants to win basketball games, according to Gouard, he values the education of the players above the thrill of winning.

“My proudest moment is when these guys graduate,” Gouard said. “The
development of these guys coming in as freshman and in four years they get a degree and graduate. I absolutely love when student-athletes graduate, leave the program and go out into the workforce and come back to say, ‘Thank you for impacting my life’. That overshadows any wins, any championships.”

Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach George Hemmingsen previously had a rivalry with UIndy and Gouard when he coached at Kentucky Wesleyan
College. According to Hemmingsen, he has learned a lot of life lessons from Gouard, as well as just those in basketball. Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Bryson Davis-Johnson said that what he values and respects most about Gouard is his honesty.

“He’s been honest with me my entire time here,” Davis-Johnson said. “Whether it’s constructive criticism, something that I did wrong or something that I need to do better. It’s the only way I’m going to identify where I need to grow.”

Gouard said that although he is tough on the players and coaching staff, he ultimately has a bond with everyone on the team.”

“I coach hard, but I also love these guysdearly,”  Gouard said. “They understand that I try to get the best out of them on a daily basis… I push these guys to the max, for the most part, and we say and do somethings to one another that we don’t like, but at the end of the day we love each other. My philosophy is tough love, play hard and have fun.”

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