Ryan Showman got the inevitable questions following Kansas Wesleyan’s ultra-successful 2019-20 women’s basketball season.
“Last year was a banner year and people asked me all the time ‘where’s your next move, what level you trying to get to, what job are you looking at?'” said Showman, who guided the Coyotes to a 26-6 record and the program’s first outright Kansas Conference championship.
The answer wasn’t surprising to those who know him.
“I’d say I’ve got the best job I can have,” he said. “There’s no other place I want to be right now, there’s no other level, not Division I, not Division II. I want to make this the best.”
That has been Showman’s mission almost since the day he arrived at KWU in 2000 as a freshman basketball student-athlete for Coach Jerry Jones.
Eight years as head coach, 153 victories, five seasons as an assistant and four years as a student-athlete later, a grateful university is showing its appreciation. Showman has been selected as recipient of the 2020 Randy Bemiss Coyote Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award is named in honor of the former KWU golf coach, who passed away in May, 2017. It recognizes individuals who have made an impact on the KWU athletics program over an extended period of time.
“He was always very supportive of me, he was always very supportive of our basketball girls, he went out of his way to talk to them and support them, go to games – even on the road. He did a lot,” Showman said of Bemiss. “He meant a lot to me as a friend and a colleague. It’s an honor to get an award that’s named after someone who’s that influential and that impactful.”
Just as Showman has been impactful on the KWU women’s program. He became the career leader in victories on January 11, 2020, with an 85-62 win over Oklahoma Wesleyan. It gave him 141 victories, surpassing his mentor and friend Gordon Reimer.
Showman later led KWU to it first outright conference title and the Coyotes defeated Mayville State (N.D.) 86-64 in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Championship in Sioux City, Iowa, before the remainder of the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Showman, the success and devotion is his way of repaying KWU.
“From day one I always felt Kansas Wesleyan had my back and had my best interests at heart, and wanted me to graduate and go make a difference,” he said. “It all started with someone believing in me and the job I’ve done and knowing who I am and how I can best serve the students here at Kansas Wesleyan.”
Showman graduated in 2004 after earning three varsity letters. He received a Master’s degree from Emporia State and taught physical education at Schilling and Heusner Elementary schools before accepting an offer from Reimer to become the women’s assistant in 2007.
The Coyotes were wildly successful during their five seasons, including a 31-3 record in 2010-11. Showman was promoted to head coach in 2012, following Reimer’s departure.
Since then Showman’s teams have compiled a 153-98 record, including a 106-60 slate in the KCAC.
It wasn’t easy early on, though. The Coyotes were 34-28, 21-15 in the KCAC, his first two seasons before he decided to alter his approach.
“When I had to sit in the big chair I had to make some of those tough decisions and kind of shift focus,” he said. “Winning consumed me and when that didn’t happen I needed to put my focus somewhere else or it was going to be .500 year after .500 year.
“I shifted my coaching style to more transformational leadership, relationship-building. One, I was more fulfilled as a head coach. Two, I was getting more out of my players, I was getting the most out of my players. And three, success came with it, just a byproduct of some of the different things we were putting emphasis on.”
KWU Director of Athletics Steve Wilson says it’s that approach that makes separates him from others.
“It’s how he cares about and treats his student-athletes,” he said. “In coaching, technically, he’s also able to pivot. You look at the kind of defense that they played this year and I’m not sure one year ago Ryan was coaching that.
“It was going to be his benchmark with this team and was going to win him some games. He saw something in his team and their talents and things that they could do particular systems. That takes a keen eye to able to know your personnel that well, to be able to really make a switch.”
Wilson says Showman’s impact goes beyond the court.
“As soon as the final horn goes off and the score’s in our favor the first two out there are his daughters (Kinsleigh and Ryleigh) and his wife (Jenni) isn’t far behind,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of coaches around the country who would look at Ryan and look at the job he’s done, the way he’s able to balance faith, family and career and if you want somebody to aspire to be if you’re a young up and coming basketball coach, he’s a guy you’d look at.”
Showman’s also front and center working on endeavors outside of basketball that benefit the entire university.
“That Coyote degree has opened so many doors for me,” he said. “Then to have the opportunity to come back and coach and teach and serve the university in other ways, whether it’s on committees or taking the lead on different projects and programs that aren’t associated with the basketball program, has been really great for me and my development.”
“It’s what makes KWU a special place, because of people like Ryan,” Wilson said.
Showman credits his mentors, Reimer and Troy Thrasher, for making him who he is.
“(Reimer) took a chance on me,” he said. “Never coached women’s basketball before, never coached at the college level, never recruited. The five years I spent with him the things I learned were more than Xs and Os. I learned how to be a good husband and father just from our conversations and just sitting in the office and talking about anything and everything but basketball.
“Troy Thrasher hired me out of college. Again, took a chance on a young guy at Sacred Heart (High School) and was his assistant for three years. That turned into a very good working relationship, personal relationship, professional relationship. He’s still a guy I talk to every day and work closely with and bounce ideas off of.”
Much work remains, according to Showman.
“We have some unfinished business, we have some things we want to do,” he said. “We want to set a standard of excellence for women’s basketball at Kansas Wesleyan. We want the new normal to be we compete for conference championships every year and go to national tournaments.
“We have an administration and athletic director that want that. That’s why I’ve been here so long and want to continue to be here. I love Kansas Wesleyan and I want to see it be successful as a whole.”