Bender Named Southwest Mississippi Community College Men’s Basketball Assistant

Bryan Bender has been named an assistant coach for the Southwest men’s basketball team. He comes to the program after three seasons as Director of Operations for the men’s basketball team at Appalachian State University.

A native of Cambridge, Wisconsin, Bender is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and holds a B. S. degree in Sports Management and a Master’s degree in Applied Kinesiology with an emphasis in sports management and coaching.

Prior to his stop at Appalachian State, Bender spent one season at Missouri State-West Plains. Before that, he spent eight years, in various roles, at the University of Minnesota where he worked for head coach Tubby Smith. While in Minnesota, the Gophers made three appearances in the NCAA tournament and three in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

Bears’ head coach Thomas Gray “was the ultimate reason I accepted the job at Southwest,” Bender stated. “I have known him for close to a decade and the success he has had both on and off the court and in the classroom has brought positive national attention to Southwest.” Also, he said, “The opportunity to get back on the road recruiting and on the court coaching while being a part of a winning culture was something that made this job very attractive to me.”

Bender said he is a “driven and relatable coach who is going to bring my diverse basketball knowledge and unique background to Summit. I am a passionate, detail-oriented worker who wants to be actively involved in all aspects of Southwest and the local community.”

Bender commented that his goal at Southwest  “is to continue the recent success on the court, in the classroom and in the community. I want to help take this program to the next level and build on Coach Gray’s established program. My previous experiences both at the NCAA Division 1 and the NJCAA Division 1 levels have prepared me to help our student-athletes achieve their goals of receiving a scholarship to play D1 basketball while obtaining a two-year degree from Southwest.”

For his part, Gray said, “We are obviously, not only as a basketball family, but as Southwest, excited to welcome Coach Bender and his wife Kristi.”

Gray said Bender is “a guy who’s going to bring wealth of knowledge to the table here at Southwest. But, most importantly, he’s going to bring a caring attitude and a concern for the well-being and development of our student-athletes. He’s a guy who’s going to really push them to be their best, not only on the floor, but most importantly, in the classroom, in the dorm and in the community. He’s really going to hold them to a high standard and show them a great example of what it means to live the right way.”

Gray said another trait Bender will bring with him is his enthusiasm. “He’s fired up about coaching,” Gray said, “he’s fired up about being here at Southwest (and) he’s fired up about making an impact in our community and in our college.”

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