Coach reflects on his decade-long streak with team
For more a decade now, the UALR Trojans men’s basketball team has been led by head coach Steve Shields. But heading into his 11th season, it doesn’t seem like it has been that long for him.
“Time flies, that’s for sure,” he said.
Shields has been head coach since the 2003-2004 season and has become the winningest coach in UALR history, compiling 263 victories coming into this season.
Under his guidance the Trojans have won five Sun Belt Conference division championships. The team also won the SBC Tournament in 2011 for the first time in school history, which led to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament – UALR’s first since 1990.
Shields began his UALR coaching tenure as an assistant and recruiting coordinator from 2000 to 2003 under then head coach Porter Moser. When Moser left for Illinois State after three successive and successful 18-win seasons at UALR, Shields took over as head coach.
In his first season at the helm, Shields won SBC Coach of the Year honors for leading a young team to a 17-12 record and winning the division championship.
According to the Steve Shields website, he was born on March 9, 1965. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education from Baylor University, where his father – the late Gene Shields – was the golf coach from 1978 until 1996.
Shields’ collegiate career included red-shirting at Oklahoma City University and a season of basketball at McLennan Community College before finally transferring to Baylor, where he played golf under his father, earning All-Southwest Conference honors in 1987.
One of Shields’ first jobs as a head coach was at his high school alma mater, Reicher Catholic High School in Waco, Texas, where he was not only the head basketball coach, but also the athletic director and head coach of the football team.
In that season, shields led his basketball team to 23 wins and also led his football team to a district title.
“It was a great experience for me to be able go back to Reicher High School (where he played football, basketball, and baseball as a student) and be able to coach and teach around people that knew me as a student. They knew the good and the bad,” Shields said.
“Same thing here, I was an assistant here for three years. You feel like they knew the good and the bad of what they were getting… from being around and seeing you from day to day.”
As for his stint as a high school football coach in the state of Texas, where football is king, Shields said the only way he agreed to it was if he got to hire some great part-time help. And, he emphasized, got to be the head basketball coach.
The next coaching position for Shields was as an assistant basketball coach at McLennan, a brief stop at Kilgore Junior College, and then a return to McLennan as the head coach for four seasons before finally coming to UALR.
Shields said winning the SBC conference tournament in 2011 is his proudest moment so far, and with good reason. The team won on a dramatic 3-point shot from 2011 SBC Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman with 1.5 left against North Texas sending them to the NCAA Tournament.
The coach remembers Bozeman putting in endless hours on his own putting shots on his own. “I think that’s something that’s very enjoyable for a coach, when you see guys put in all that work and then make it pay off,” Shields said.
“That one moment [Bozeman’s shot] is probably the most enjoyable, but seeing guys that have graduated and gone on and been productive citizens, doing well with their lives – that is equally important.”
That fact that Shields’ father was a longtime coach influenced his decision to become one himself, a decision that he said he made early on. Growing up in a family of four boys, he said his favorite sport was whatever was in season, but he knew he wanted to coach a team sport.
“You get into it, because you love sports and you want help young people achieve their goals,” Shields said.
Achieving these goals includes graduating every player who has exhausted their eligibility at UALR, which shows Shields’ commitment to more than just the athletic side of college athletics.
“It’s more than just basketball, more than bouncing a ball.”