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Winning becomes habitual

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MARCH 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Scott Brickman has a habit of winning.

In his 15-plus seasons of coaching college baseball, he has helped lead almost a half dozen programs to winning seasons, many of which went on to impressive postseason runs as well.

So it seems almost natural that Brickman has landed a Iowa, a program that has for many years struggled to find its game, finding itself instead relegated to the bottom half of the Big Ten standings, year in and year out.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the game,” he said. “Baseball is baseball. It simply is just working with this team on a day-to-day basis and trying to make them better.”

If it seems simple, that’s because it is. Starting from the ground up, Brickman, head coach Rick Heller, and the rest of the staff have started to implement a winning culture that began on the first day.

And they’ve built on it every day since. Players who were starved for answers under previous head coach Jack Dahm have taken to the new staff like salamanders to water, growing every step of the way.

“The guys have been sponges,” Brickman said. “They literally come sit here every day, just grasping for information that could make them better.

“It’s been really eye-opening to a certain point, just because of the fact that these guys weren’t set in their own ways the way things have been done in the past.”

And who better to help open their eyes than Brickman.

An assistant coach on Rick Heller’s staff that helped turn Northern Iowa into a contender five years back, he knows what to expect now that they are together again, this time inside the dugout of Banks Field.

“[Heller] is not a head coach that just sits around in his office all day, then shows up at game time,” Brickman said.

“He’s very involved in practice every day as well as the recruiting process, so to know that you’re working with someone whose had as much success as he has, it really was a very easy choice to come back to Iowa.”

That’s not to say that Brickman is solely the beneficiary of riding Heller’s coattails. Far from it, actually.

He’s a proven winner in his own right, as both an assistant and as a head coach.

Before coming to Iowa, Brickman was the head coach of Division II Belmont Abbey for four years. During his tenure, he guided the Crusaders to a 104-82 record, including a 2012 Conference Carolinas Western Division Championship, the team’s first in more than 10 seasons.

He also led the team to a pair of top-25 national rankings, the first in school history, and he departed Belmont Abbey with the best winning percentage in the team’s 22-year history.

Before that, Brickman made his rounds at various community colleges and summer-league programs, including an assistant coaching stint at Muscatine Community College that saw four of his players drafted into the major leagues.

“The biggest difference between coaching at a smaller school and coming to Iowa is just athletic ability of the players,” Brickman said. “We had some good athletes at Northern Iowa and Belmont Abbey, but you come to a big school such as Iowa, and the ceiling is just so much higher.”

While there is certainly a discrepancy in talent at the Big Ten level compared with most of the programs he has coached at previously, he knows that the same basic principles of good coaching apply to every team no matter the size.

For Brickman, it begins and ends with responsibility both on and off the field.

“You’ve got to take care of stuff on and off the field,” he said. “If we don’t trust you in the classroom, we sure as heck aren’t going to trust you in the ninth inning of a tie ball game,” Brickman said.


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