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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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In Sports

Coach Steve Showalter with his family after leading Germantown High School to a WIAA Division I victory.

In Sports

Showalter with his son, Zak.

Showalter finds new success on the sidelines


Steve Showalter provided Germantown High School with one of its finest moments when his unbeaten Warhawks edged out Rufus King for the WIAA Division 1 State Basketball Championship.

But the 12-year veteran coach is already one of Germantown's finest – a veteran police officer of the community for nearly 23 years.

The 46-year old Showalter has experienced some of the ultimate highs during a lifetime on the court, with his final chapter far from being cobbled together. During the mid-'80s he scored 1399 points during a stellar career at UW-Platteville under Bo Ryan, and in a cyclical twist of basketball fate, will soon experience watching his oldest son Zak play for Ryan at Wisconsin next season.

The third time was indeed a charm for Showater, capturing the gold trophy at the Kohl Center after two previous one-and-done attempts. He was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in Wisconsin, and throughout this amusement park thriller of a season, Showalter had his two sons, senior Zak and sophomore Jake, along for the ride.

Here are 10 questions for Steve Showalter, called upon to protect and to serve and to bring home the hardware in G-Town.

OnMilwaukee.com: Was there ever a moment, maybe in private, where you were overcome with the emotion of the season and winning the State Championship with your two sons by your side?

Steve Showalter: There was a moment when we were leaving the school on Friday morning. We paraded through the whole school with the team and all the kids were out in the hallway with a small pep band leading us through. That was a moment that I almost lost it because it was just so exciting to see what I had always dreamed about with basketball in this school. And then at our banquet on Tuesday night, Zak was the last one to come up and talk and he lost it and was crying and said 'Dad, I love you and thank you, and I just want you to be proud of me.' I don't think there was a dry eye in the house at that point. Sitting up there at the podium (at State) with both of them was just a dream come true.

OMC: Did you sleep Saturday night? How crazy were the days following the State Championship?

SS: We got home about 3:30, 4 o'clock in the morning from all of the festivities and we tried to sleep maybe four or five hours but that was it. With so much communication ability out there now with emails, texts and phone calls it's just non-stop. We had a pep rally on Tuesday, the banquet on Tuesday night so that was more work than anything. Finally Wednesday night, it started to slow down. It's been kind of what I dreamed about and wasn't sure if I was ready for it.

OMC: How in the world will you be able to juggle being a cop, being a coach and keeping tabs on Zak's career at Wisconsin?

SS: With all of the offers he had to play all over the country in the back of my mind was the selfish little bit of me that said I still really want to see him play, I don't want to miss him playing ever. I can still get done with practice at five and be sitting at the Kohl Center when the game starts at seven, I hope. I know that's really hard because I've tried to watch the Badgers play over the years and by the end of the day and after practice there's not a lot of energy left. It's going to be a juggling act and I'm sure I'm going to have to catch a lot of the stuff on TV.

OMC: What is the most difficult personal challenge coaching your sons?

SS: For one, they're both very different. Zak is extremely stubborn, Zak is extremely motivated and driven and along with that comes the fact that he thinks he's doing right all of the time. And I always think I'm right, so in between there during the last four years, there was some head butting going on between us.

Jake is kind of happy-go-lucky and just likes to run around, have fun and play and I think that shows in the way he plays. He doesn't feel the pressure, and Zak puts a lot on his own shoulders. I also always had the thought that I had to justify to all the outsiders why my kids were getting playing time. After about a year of that, I decided people are going to think what they want to think so I'm just going to enjoy being around the kids and coaching my sons.

OMC: As a police officer in Germantown, you must get lots of people who recognize you as the basketball coach. Do they ever try to talk hoops with you to try and weasel out of getting a ticket?

SS: All the time. It goes back to when I worked third shift and I would go into a bar fight getting ready to step in between and one of the guys would recognize me as the coach and just stop and want to talk basketball. So in a way, it's worked out positively but for the last five or six years when we've been pretty good the role between coach and police officer kind of gets pushed into one.

In a lot of ways we deal with the same things in teaching and coaching that we do as educating the public with my job. The last couple years it's been an everyday thing where, in a good way or a bad way, I'm the basketball guy. Sometimes it's tough to do my role as an officer when they just want to talk basketball and I just have to realize that I can't do that all the time.

OMC: Can you share the craziest story of a time when you were juggling both jobs at the same time?

SS: There are so many. I've missed games several times over the years. I'm on the SWAT team in Germantown and missed games because SWAT called me. I've missed games because of snow storms where I was out on Highway 41 directing traffic in the snow while my team is playing. I've missed practice for all kinds of reasons but also had the luxury of getting to take off in order to get to some of that stuff, so it's not all negative.

One time I had to wrestle with a guy and take a knife away from him at gunpoint, was at the hospital with him all day and I didn't get out of there until it was just before it was time to get on the bus. Here I am, dealing with this guy all day long, my mind is totally not on the game, and then I have to change "hats," jump on a bus and go to play one of the biggest games of my life. That was a tough day.

OMC: Which job is tougher to decompress from, police officer or basketball coach?

SS: I thought that being an officer was so stressful when I started but basketball allowed me to be able to decompress and kind of get away from all the bad stuff, the bad days I have on the job and the bad people I deal with. But then you don't realize that the more you win the more you are expected to do, and more stress comes with that. Now that we're on top and where I wanted the program to be the stress is stronger than anything I have ever dealt with.

OMC: Bo Ryan coached you at UW-Platteville and now will coach your son Zak at Wisconsin. How is Bo different now than in the days you played for him, and what is the best advice you will give your son dealing with him?

SS: Talking to former players, guys from Platteville, Milwaukee and Wisconsin ... we all think we had it the worst (laughs). When I first got there, Platteville was no good at all and we had to really do a lot of work. It took a lot of work from him and the players. He is very driven, very motivated and very demanding. I told my son that he needed to keep his mouth shut, look his coach in the eye, which he's good at but he still, sometimes, gets upset with me and he's not going to be able to put on that act with anyone else in his future.

Be quiet, do what you are told and work your rear end off because good things are going to happen because I learned that lesson myself ... if you do it the right way and do what you are told you can be a star, because Bo will teach you the right things. I wouldn't trade anything, all of years of playing for him and knowing him and now having my son playing for him because he is a positive influence on all of us.

OMC: You played quite a bit after your college days ... still at it?

SS: The last couple years I've had a knee issue, but I didn't start slowing down until I was 45. I pretty much played every day of my life into my 40s and I still want to get out there this summer because I played in a tournament in February and noticed that if you don't play and stay sharp you're going to lose it fast. I started devoting more time to watching my kids play and enjoying that and with that came more success for our team, because I put more effort into coaching than playing.

OMC: Where do you store or display all of the Showalter hardware in the house?

SS: All of my stuff was up for a long time until we had kids. And then once they were born trophies and plaques and everything else was replaced by drawings and coloring and all that stuff. All of my stuff has either been thrown away or is down in the basement in some boxes who knows where. But all of the boy's stuff, now that they're getting plaques and trophies that mean something, are all displayed in their rooms or on a mantel in the living room.

But to me and to the boys as well, it's never really been about the awards that you get at the end, it's about what it takes to get there and enjoying the journey ... doing what it takes to win. The aftermath is great, but we all enjoy doing it rather than having done it.

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