Coach Jeff Bowen is 63 years young. He has been teaching kids how to play basketball for 32 years. He has taught and coached in New Hampshire, Montana and Utah. He currently is at Pinnacle Canyon Academy and has reached the milestone of 450 wins in his career.
Bowen grew up in East Aurora, N.Y. and found his love of basketball with the guidance of his coach and father, Bert Bowen. Later, he attended the University of Buffalo in New York. He was drafted by the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Riley, K.S., where he was a staff sergeant. After the service, he started teaching social studies and helping children develop skills that would help both on and off the basketball court. Some of his players have gone on to play college ball. His son and fellow coach, Craig Bowen, played at the University of Montana-Western. Other former players went to schools like Purdue, Louisville and Southern New Hampshire University.
He has led seven teams to state titles. Four came at Derry, a New Hampshire middle school, where he also had an undefeated season from 1979-1980. Two titles came from his Amateur Athletic Union or AAU days, where his team was the Southern New Hampshire Grizzlies, a team on which his son, Craig, played. His most recent title came last season, when Pinnacle took home the trophy.
While winning is prized by all coaches, Bowen values most the experiences he has with his players. Watching players make strides on and off the court has always been a positive experience, one that he has never seen better displayed than during his days at Pinnacle.
Three of his current players sat down and expressed their thoughts about their coach and offered gratitude for his mentoring.
Demetri Hullings, who is a junior, has played for Coach Bowen for three years. He has had to work his way up to the starting position he currently holds. He wants to play college ball and played for the championship team last year. His favorite memory of playing for Bowen would have to be at the tournament last year. "Thanks for all your hard work with us Coach Bowen," Hullings said.
Jullinn Garcia, a junior, used to be a self-proclaimed troubled youth. Basketball has gotten him out of trouble and he wants to stay that way. His goal was to try out for the team and make it. "I was really terrible when I first started; Coach Bowen helped me get to where I am now." His favorite memory of the coach in his own words is, "It was a ceremony at the end of last year and I got the most improved player award. I went up to get it and kissed coach on the cheek in front of the whole school." His message for his favorite coach is, "I love ya, you mean the world to me. Thank you."
Jake Hardy, a freshman, attributes his love of the game to Coach Bowen, too. When asked why he started playing, his response was, "Our team got organized when I was in 7th grade and it was Coach Bowen's first year coaching here. I heard he was a good coach, so I decided to play."
Hardy recalls his most memorable moment, "The junior varsity had never won a game and, after Coach Bowen started coaching, we got our first win." His message to the coach, "Thanks for teaching me how to play fundamental basketball."
As the clock ticked down to 45 seconds against Mont Harmon with Pinnacle up by 18 Demetri Hullings led the players and crowd in a chant of "450, 450, 450." There was a special feeling in the gym as Bowen got choked up seeing how much he meant to his players and the fans. Some coaches are legends before they retire and that moment showed that Coach Bowen is one of those. Once the final buzzer rang, the varsity team jumped down from the stands and drenched him with their cooler full of water.
A brief lapse of good sportsmanship was noticed by Craig Bowen before the team went to congratulate the other team on their performance. Afterward, the team came back into the gym and lifted Coach Bowen on their shoulders. Emotions ran high as the Panthers paid tribute to their leader.
"I would like to thank all the players for their hard work, respect, and show of character, both on the court and off. It's important to me that every player has a role to play on the team, that's why I play two groups of kids," said Bowen. "This game in particular showed good skill execution."
"I would especially like to thank Mrs. Hardy for allowing the program to grow," said Bowen. "I hope I'm here to see Jullinn graduate, he is a special person. He wants to go to college and become a teacher. I'll be around for at least one more year and am looking forward to coaching Pinnacle when we enter the Utah High School Athletic Association next year. Thanks for the joys and memories, the team played fantastic tonight and this caught me off guard; I expected something but nothing like this," concluded Bowen.