BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
MACOMB – The lure, Chad Boudreau said, was to work with Rob Jeter again.
Boudreau, a Farmington native, was on the staff from 2005-16 when Jeter was the head men’s basketball coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When Jeter was going through the process of being hired as Western Illinois’ head coach in March, he called Boudreau and offered him a job as associate head coach.
Boudreau was the head coach at Highland (Ill.) Community College, but had always thought about coaching again at the NCAA Division I level. Boudreau thought that Western Illinois was a program, “where you could win at,” he said.
But there was another lure to the job.
It was close to where he grew up.
“If (the job) had been in Arizona, or Florida, or New York, I wouldn’t have gone with Rob,” Boudreau said.
The Leathernecks head into their final weekend of the regular season with two Summit League games at Oral Roberts this weekend. In a season filled with the twists that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a schedule that has gone too fast, Boudreau said.
“The basketball stuff has been hard, because you feel like you’re constantly behind,” he said. “Now feels like December. Our team is coming together, they’re starting to understand their roles and they’re grasping what Rob is trying to do. But it feels like December, and all of the sudden it’s February and you’ve got two more games in the conference. It feels like you’re behind, and I know everybody feels that way.
Western Illinois, which started the season with 14 new players on the roster, is 7-12 overall, but 5-7 in the Summit League. The Leathernecks are on a five-game winning streak.
It’s a roster that was built on relationships that Jeter and Boudreau had with players and the schools where they were recruited.
“It was like cramming for a test, and I love it,” Boudreau said. “There were a lot of things going on. A lot of these guys, we already knew. All of these guys that look like a bunch of new guys, we knew them. Just bringing them all together, that was the biggest thing.”
It is those relationships that Boudreau has built over his career that he appreciates. After graduating from Harmony High School in 1991, Boudreau played two seasons at Southeastern Community College and then closed his career at Hannibal-LaGrange College. He was an assistant coach at Indian Hills Community College from 1999-2005 before going to Milwaukee.
“You take a little piece of everything — a brush stroke here, a brush stroke there,” Boudreau said. “At Harmony, I was fortunate to have great coaches. Then at Southeastern, Jim Wyatt is a Hall of Fame coach. I love him. At Hannibal-LaGrange, Kent Thomas was a great coach.
“Life is about relationships. And I’ve been fortunate to have great relationships with my coaches. When we’re all 85 and sitting on a farm in Farmington, Iowa, you want to be able to look back and know you treated people right and you did everything you could to help the people around you.”
Boudreau was part of the 1991 boys basketball team at Harmony that qualified for the state tournament.
“We had a bunch of guys who grew up together,” Boudreau said. “And then bringing Jermain (Willform, a transfer from Burlington, who went on to be an all-state selection) in. The thing I liked the most about that was the positive attention it brought to Harmony. It was a great school, and I enjoyed it. At that time in my life, it was really important to me … we really wanted to put Harmony on the map, let people know Harmony was good in sports.
“It’s so true with all of these small towns. You see it with Melissa Freesmeier and the volleyball program she’s built at Holy Trinity. Marquette basketball back in the day was like that. The whole community gets behind it, and it’s such a good thing for the community and the school. That’s what I liked. Fortunately, as a 17-year-old, I realized that. This is a cool thing for home. I just appreciated we could do that for our home.”
Boudreau said growing up in Farmington was “amazing.”
“I’m so thankful of where I grew up, where I went to school,” he said. “I wouldn’t change that for a second. I had great coaches, great teachers. Farmington is an awesome town. My wife (Stacy, the head volleyball coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater) even says that all of the time, that it’s a beautiful and underrated place. People don’t realize it. You have the river there. You have the state park. So I was outside all of the time. If I wasn’t playing basketball, I was fishing, I was hunting, constantly doing something outside.”
It all goes back to location for Boudreau, who is helping rebuild the Leathernecks.
“People from the outside don’t realize this is a big basketball area,” he said. “They love their basketball. Macomb High School loves their basketball. Quincy High School loves their basketball. Galesburg loves their basketball. Quad Cities loves their basketball. Burlington … there’s just a lot of good basketball around. And I think that’s something people don’t realize — it’s a basketball area.”