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Prime Time coach a vet of the hardwood

BY TRAVIS VARNER | JULY 06, 2009 7:20 AM

Ray Swetalla has coached basketball for more than 35 years, and he has no plans of stopping in the future. He first appreciated basketball at a young age, and his love for the game has kept him associated with it for as long as he can remember.

He has played pickup games on the playground, played high-school ball, played in college, coached high school, coached college, and now coaches the Vinton Merchants of the Prime Time League in North Liberty.

The majority of Swetalla’s life has been around the orange bouncing ball. It has helped shape him as a person.

Many people have influenced Swetalla throughout his years coaching, but one individual may have had more of an effect on his career than the others: Bob Knight.

Pursuing a master’s degree in physical education, Swetalla decided to enroll at Indiana University in 1977. After being at Indiana for a while, he was accepted as a graduate assistant for the basketball program. He got to work under Knight, and he will cherish those memories forever.

“He gave me a chance to help, and it was a tremendous learning experience,” Swetalla said. “I was right there in their heyday, and he was just a tremendous guy. There were guys like us who would run through the wall for him.”

Swetalla thinks he learned so much because Knight had a great system, and possessed some excellent coaching attributes. Although Knight is known to be an aggressive individual, Swetalla said that as long as a person did his job, everything went fine. After all, Knight didn’t win 902 games for nothing.

“That’s just the way he does things. Right or wrong, it’s very effective, and his kids are going to be great people,” Swetalla said. “I never got yelled at once, but I did my job. If you showed up on time, kept your mouth shut, and did what you were told, then everything worked out.”

After he graduated from Indiana, Swetalla made stops at the college levels in Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marycrest International University, and Augustana College. He also coached some high-school ball at Davenport Central. Then, roughly seven years ago, he received a phone call from Randy Larson informing him that there was one coaching vacancy in Prime Time. Swetalla agreed, and he has been in the league every season since.

Darryl Moore, a former Iowa basketball player and current member of Swetalla’s squad, enjoys playing for Swetalla because he takes an active approach to the game, regardless of the circumstances. Summer league basketball is known to be laid-back, and Swetalla doesn’t push too hard.

However, he is still animated enough that his players understand they are not on the blacktops at a local playground.

“He actually coaches,” Moore said. “Every time he comes in, he has plays ready and drawn up for us. He’s into it, and all the guys listen to him, and that’s what makes it easier. He’s definitely helping us out.”

Iowa sophomore Anthony Tucker said he enjoys playing for Swetalla in the summer league because of his active coaching. Although the team has not been able to learn schemes because of a lack of practice time, Tucker thinks Swetalla’s coaching experience gives the team an advantage.

“He hasn’t had a chance to put in a system, but he has coached before,” he said. “The way he coaches allows us to just play — that’s the biggest difference.”


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