God is good to SBU basketball program
BOLIVAR – When he came here to interview for the job as men’s basketball coach, Jeff Guiot heard all about how the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association is tough on a private Christian school like Southwest Baptist University (SBU).
“I’m sick and tired of hearing how great this league is,” he said. “Our God is bigger than this league. He’s bigger than this league. I don’t want to hear how good this league is. I want to start hearing about how good our God is.
“When I would say that around campus, I could see people just cringe. Most people thought I was a little crazy. But the good Lord blessed us last year.”
This past season, SBU claimed the school’s first regular season and conference tournament championships since 1991. The Bearcats finished 27-5 and were ranked No. 6 in the final NCAA Division II poll.
They open this season Nov. 18 against Drury University at home with a rotation of 11 “pretty solid” players that includes two returning starters. SBU’s newfound national reputation in the Guiot era is demonstrated by its No. 13 preseason ranking.
“We want the kids to play hard, establish our style of play, and get everybody on the same page and find out what guys’ strengths are and what their weaknesses are,” Guiot said. “Obviously we want to play to this year’s team’s strengths. This isn’t last year’s team.”
Guiot’s coaching philosophy is anchored to evangelism in that the most important thing is that each player is converted. While Christian character development is very important to him as he reminds his players that they are playing for the Lord, it also becomes evident during the course of an interview that he really wants to win. For example, he tells every one of his recruits that the goal at SBU is to win the national championship.
“People listen to you more when you’re at the top than when you’re at the bottom,” he said. “If winning’s going to help us reach more people for Christ, then winning’s very important. If winning’s not going to help us lead people to Christ, then winning’s irrelevant. We want to represent Him as well as we can and put ourselves in position to receive His blessings to further His kingdom.
“We’re not a win-at-all-costs program, but we do think it’s very important that we have success and that our kids grow athletically, spiritually and academically.”
His wife of 17 years, Tina, is a graduate of SBU who shares his passion for basketball excellence. “Mama Guiot,” as the players like to call her, can be relied on for a lot of the administrative and relational things that go into the making of a good college basketball program. From arranging the team’s hotel accommodations to staying with an injured player in the emergency room, Mama Guiot is there.
“My job is to just kind of take some of the little junk out of the way so he can focus on what he needs to do,” she said. “It’s not a job. This is what we do. This is our ministry. This is who we are.”
Guiot enjoys it when she sits close to him during games. He respects her point of view.
“She’s got some good basketball knowledge,” he said. “There’s a lot to be said for women’s intuition. It didn’t take me too long to be married to figure out that you need to listen to that stuff from time to time. She thinks through different eyes, which is very healthy for the program.”
The SBU head coach looks at the lineup in his league, which consists entirely of state schools, and sees a big advantage for Southwest Baptist.