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Indians recruit proven recruiter
Former head coach at Southwest Missouri State University joins Southeast staff.
By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian
The urge to get back into Division I basketball means Mark Bernsen's new home will be Cape Girardeau.
Bernsen, a former head coach at Southwest Missouri State, was hired Monday as an assistant coach at Southeast Missouri State University. He will officially join head coach Gary Garner's staff today.
Bernsen, who will be the Indians' recruiting coordinator and will be involved with all aspects of the basketball program, replaces Keno Davis. Davis left Southeast to join the staff at Drake.
"I'm tremendously excited to be getting back to Division I and joining the Southeast program," Bernsen said. "Over the last 20 years, I've spent 14 or 15 years in Division I and I missed it. There's an atmosphere or attitude, the kind of athlete you get in Division I, that you don't get anywhere else. I wanted to get back to that."
Bernsen, 53, has spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Division II Missouri-St. Louis, where he compiled a 41-67 record.
But his record at UMSL aside, the rest of Bernsen's resume is quite impressive. He was 49-37 in three seasons as Southwest Missouri State's head coach from 1992 to 1995, reaching the NIT quarterfinals in 1993.
Bernsen, a St. Louis native who played at UMSL in the early 1970s, also went 182-69 in eight seasons as the head coach at Jefferson Junior College in Hillsboro, Mo., from 1977 to 1985.
Recruiter for Spoonhour
In addition, Bernsen has an extensive background as an assistant coach, including stops at Southwest Missouri State, Murray State, New Mexico State and Idaho.
As an assistant at Southwest Missouri State in the early 1990s, Bernsen was the recruiting coordinator for Charlie Spoonhour when the Bears made two NCAA Tournament appearances. And at Murray State in the late 1980s, Bernsen was the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator when the Racers won two Ohio Valley Conference titles.
"I think we are very fortunate to attract a coach with Mark Bernsen's experience and ability," Garner said. "At this level, you're looking for a proven guy. He's got the experience, not only as an assistant coach at this level but also as a head coach, so he's going to look at everything from a head coach's eyes, which you want all your assistants to do.
"He's a proven recruiter. He's a good person who loves to coach the game of basketball. Charlie Spoonhour, who is a good friend of mine, said I just can't get anybody better. I feel really good about it."
Said Bernsen, "I have tremendous respect for coach Garner. We've known each other for about 25 years and I really look forward to working with him.
"My wife Cindy and I are also looking forward to living in Cape Girardeau. I think Cape is a great town and I know they support their basketball and support sports in general."
Bernsen, whose family includes a grown daughter in Chicago and a son attending New Mexico State, also looks forward to helping the Indians get back on a winning track after two consecutive down seasons.
"Coach Garner has had some great years there, but through one thing or another, they had some rough roads, but last year they showed a lot of improvement," Bernsen said. "With the players they have coming back and the ones coming in, I think it's going to be a good group.
"Division I basketball is so exciting, with March Madness and everything. Hopefully I can help them get back to that level."
Bernsen joins a Southeast coaching staff that includes fellow assistants Gary Abner and Kevin Williams.
"I really enjoy recruiting and I look forward to working with coach Abner and coach Williams in trying to get as good a student-athlete as we can possibly get at Southeast," Bernsen said.