Fifth-year head coach Matt Bowen is no stranger to turning a program around, having taken a perennial Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference underdog in Bemidji State University to a championship level that has not been repeated since he left the program to take over as UMD head coach in the summer of 2012. Bowen, just the third head coach for the Bulldogs since the mid-1980's, succeeded Gary Holquist, who stepped down in April 2012 to take the role of UMD’s Athletic Development Director.
Bowen completed his turnaround of Bemidji State in his sixth and most productive year with the program, guiding the Beavers to a school record 22-9 overall mark which included an NSIC regular season championship and the program’s second NCAA II playoff berth in the team’s 91-year history. In addition to receiving votes in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II poll for the first-time ever, Bowen also produced the 2011-12 NSIC and NCAA II Player of the Year in James Ellisor. Bowen’s teams saw steady improvement at Bemidji State, with a five-win first season turning into a 12-win team in year four and the 22-win championship team in 2011-12.
He’s done the same thing at UMD, taking over a team that had won as few as seven games in 2010-11 and winning eight, 12, and then 16 games in his first three seasons with the Bulldogs. Under Bowen, UMD produced its first NABC All-Region selection since 2008-09 in Brett Ervin ('15) during the 2014-15 season as well as NABC Honors Court selection Jake Harder ('16) that season and All-NSIC guard Jordan Reetz ('14) the previous year. Along with an influx of young talent, the future seems bright for the Bulldogs under Bowen’s guidance.
Prior to his appointment in Bemidji, Bowen spent 15 years on the staffs of three NCAA I institutions, working under the likes of Homer Drew (Valparaiso University), Gene Bartow (University of Alabama-Birmingham) and Bob Knight (Indiana University). He served a four-year stint as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Valparaiso from 2002-06 and helped the Crusaders to two Mid-Continent Conference titles and one berth each in the NCAA (2004) and NIT (2003) tournaments. Bowen spent the previous seven years (1995-2002) in an assistant coaching role at Alabama-Birmingham, where the Blazers secured a pair of berths in the NIT tournament, one Conference USA National Division championship and one NCAA Tournament appearance. As an undergraduate, Bowen attended Indiana University and was employed for five seasons as the men’s basketball team manager. He was part of two Big Ten championship clubs and four NCAA Tournament qualifiers (including the 1992 Hoosiers, who advanced to the Final Four).
A native of River Falls, Wisconsin, Bowen graduated from Indiana University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science degree in health, physical education and recreation and earned a Master’s degree in health education from Alabama-Birmingham four years later. His father, Rick, was the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls from 1986-2006 and retired as that school’s athletic director in 2010.
Bowen and his wife, Ashli, have two daughters - McKenzi (11) and Addison (6).