By Joe Curley of the Ventura County Star, See Complete Story
Will Cowen is returning to the basketball court.
And going coast to coast to join one of the biggest athletic departments in the country.
The Ventura College athletic director was hired on Monday as the Director of Player Development for Florida State University women's basketball.
"I have loved coming to work every day for a decade," Cowen said, "but I feel strongly that I have more to give to the game of basketball."
Cowen says goodbye to VC two weeks after being honored in Washington, D.C., as the Junior College/Community College Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
During his decade at the helm, VC teams won five state championships, 67 conference championships and were honored as state scholar teams 18 times.
"I've cherished my time at Ventura College," Cowen said. "Since returning home to Ventura College, we have been able to continue traditions and honor those who came before us. We have built an atmosphere where our campus and community know that we care. We have been able to hire and surround our student athletes with coaches, support staff, faculty and administrators that set a positive example and work hard every day for a common goal. The common goal has been our relentless commitment to student success, and the work of this department has become a model for over 700 two-year college athletic departments nationwide"
Cowen said he is making to move to work under Florida State head coach Sue Semrau, who has guided the Seminoles to the NCAA tournament in 11 of the past 12 years, including Elite Eight appearances in two of the past four seasons.
"For me to move across the country, I'm doing it because we have a great relationship and I want to work for her," Cowen said. "She's had that program built all the way into the top 10 with multiple Elite Eight appearances. We want to compete for a national championship."
Cowen's new role is unique in that in blends on-court and off-the-court responsibilities.
"His strong leadership skills, understanding of the big picture of the student-athlete and basketball knowledge set him apart from the other candidates," Semrau said via e-mail. "He will be an integral part of the holistic approach we have in developing our student-athletes at Florida State."
The Ventura High graduate is known locally as a former assistant to Dan Larson and Ann Larson with the Ventura High boys and girls basketball teams, respectively, for becoming the first coach to guide a Pacific View League team to the state tournament at Pacifica High, and for coaching future NBA player James Ennis as Ventura College men's basketball head coach.
But he's also spent his summers working throughout the country with Ann Meyers-Drysdale and Bill McClintock on the Frontline Basketball Camps, which carries the tradition of Pete Newell's famous "Big Man" camps.
Over the past couple summers, since the NCAA introduced a summer session for Division I programs, that work has evolved into independent consulting with programs like Rutgers, Texas Christian and Florida State.
"That's how it's melded for me," Cowen said. "This just seemed like the right idea."
In his decade off the bench, Cowen has stayed close to the game by contributing behind the scenes to both Ventura College teams and the St. Bonaventure High boys team. All three programs run his offense.
"The dude knows what he's doing," said Joey Ramirez, VC's current men's basketball head coach and Cowen's former assistant. "He's a smart guy, in a lot of different ways. Not just basketball."
Cowen contributed to two Ventura College women's basketball state championship teams. Head coach Ned Mircetic, who last year became the fastest college women's basketball coach to 800 wins, regardless of level, often refers to Cowen as a "basketball savant."
"He has one of the best basketball minds I've ever been around," Mircetic said. "He understands basketball as well as anyone and he has an uncanny ability to teach.
"The man's a genius. I genuinely believe that his intellect is such that he can make an immediate impact on a top-10 team in the country."
Florida State was 26-7 a year ago, was ranked No. 11 in the final AP poll and won an NCAA tournament game for the sixth straight season.
"He's going to a program that's in the top 20 nationally, maybe even the top 10," Mircetic said. "He has the chance to help get them into the Final Four … and it's going to be fun watching Florida State."
Cowen has played a big role in local sports beyond coaching football and basketball at both the high school and collegiate level. He served as the county basketball coaches association president. He recently emceed the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame banquet at the Reagan Presidential Library.
He even served as color commentator on The Star's "Game of the Week" high school football broadcasts.
Ramirez admitted it was "an understatement" to label Cowen's departure as a big loss for Ventura College athletics, but said he is "so happy" for his former boss.
"He deserves this," Ramirez said. "This opportunity is perfect for him and it's not something that he went out and looked for.
"He's given himself to VC and to our community. Some people give their work and their eight hours (per day). This guy has given his life. I saw him eat, sleep and drink Ventura College and this community."