Indians' staff loses another assistant

Friday, June 11, 2004

The lure of returning to the head coaching ranks at one of the nation's premier junior college programs was simply too great for Mark Bernsen to pass up.

So on Thursday, Bernsen --with mixed emotions, he said --resigned after just one season as the top assistant men's basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University. He will become the head coach at Moberly (Mo.) Community College.

"It's been a really difficult decision for me and I went back and forth on it, because I think it's going to be a great year here next season," Bernsen said. "But this place I'm going to is unbelievable, when you look at their tradition and history and some of the people who have coached there. When the job came open and they called. ...

"It all boils down to being a head coach and making the decisions. I guess I didn't expect it to happen this soon again, but me being a Missouri guy I know all about that program and what an opportunity this is. My ultimate goal is to be a Division I head coach again. You never know, but hopefully this will help me get to that point."

Bernsen, 54, is a St. Louis native who has been a head coach for a good part of his career, including at Jefferson Junior College from 1977 to 1985 -- he compiled seven 20-win seasons -- at Southwest Missouri State from 1992 to 1995 and at Missouri-St. Louis from 1999 to 2003.

Bernsen, a former assistant at Southwest Missouri State, New Mexico State and Murray State, said it was particularly tough leaving Southeast head coach Gary Garner.

"Coach Garner does a tremendous job and working with him was great. He does things the right way both on and off the court," Bernsen said. "But this is just a special situation and it took a special situation to take me away from coach Garner and Southeast."

Said Garner: "We wish Mark well in his new position. I consider Moberly one of the top 10 junior college coaching jobs in the country. Mark did a great job for us during his one year at Southeast, but this is a very good opportunity for him."

The revolving doorBernsen is the third member of Garner's coaching staff to leave the program in the past month. Gary Abner is now an assistant at Tennessee-Chattanooga while Kevin Williams is an assistant at Hancock High School in St. Louis.

"All three coaches, to my knowledge, didn't want to leave, but they left for better situations and financially they improved themselves," Garner said. "At this level, assistant coaches just are not going to stay very long. They're going to move on.

"You hope your coaches are approached about other jobs, otherwise you're probably not hiring very good people. I think it's a tribute to the kind of people we've hired that, even though we haven't had as much success as we would have liked the last few years, they're still being pursued for other jobs."

Southeast will conduct a national search for Bernsen's position. Abner's spot on the staff has already been filled by former Southwest Missouri State-West Plains assistant Robert Guster.

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