Since getting to the college seven years ago, head coach Ben Conrad has turned the women’s basketball program into a perennial power. Conrad is 207-32 here at the college with a .866 winning percentage. This championship season marked his sixth straight 30-win campaign at the college. Conrad was grad assistant at Northern Iowa University and served three years as head coach at Des Moines Area Community College and Upper Iowa University. Those six seasons he improved both of those programs by miles. This championship was Conrad’s first as head coach, and don’t be surprised if it isn’t his last.
James Howey: Why did you want the ball in Alexis Brown’s hands when the game was on the line?
Ben Conrad: She’s a very good one-on-one player. She can make plays and improvise against solid defense. She also was hot late in that game, including three free-throw makes when she was fouled shooting a three. After some deep thought, I felt like that was our best chance.
JH: Have you ever been a part of an atmosphere like the college had in the championship game, and how exciting was it to coach in that environment?
BC: We’ve had a few really cool nights here over the years, but nothing like that. Our crowd was unreal. They worked awfully hard that night to help get us over the hump.
JH: Considering some of the heartbreak you guys have had in the last few years with losing in regionals, how much sweeter does that make winning this championship?
BC: I think the valleys are what make the peaks so special. I’ve spent plenty of nights in this business in some dark places emotionally. That night makes all those nights more than worth it. Trust me when I tell you I thought about our group in 2013 that got beat on a buzzer-beater in Wichita. We’ve been on the other end of this for sure.
JH: This team went through a lot of adversity and some struggles through the season. When did you finally start to think this team is getting it and has what it takes to do special things?
BC: It was clear the last couple weeks. We were starting to play right. We really handled two very good teams to close out the regular season. I had a feeling we could make a run with this group.
JH: You guys use the motto “Process over product.” What does that mean to you personally, and how have you and your coaching staff tried to instill that in your teams over the years?
BC: It’s just keeping a laser-like focus on the process we follow to get our group playing right and approaching your daily work the right way. It’s about work ethic and just grinding. I always tell our kids not to get too high or too low during the year after wins or losses. Just keep your eyes on winning every day in the weight room, film room or practice.
JH: What made you want to get into coaching and why basketball?
BC: Education is the family business. We’ve got high school teachers, coaches, college coaches, college presidents all in our family tree. I always knew I’d coach. One of my uncles was a college football coach, and I remember as a really young boy watching him lead his team onto the field one Saturday, like a general leading his troops. I just remember thinking that was pretty special. Basketball was always my passion. I had another uncle who was a college hoops coach, and I’ve just always loved the game. It’s the ultimate team game.
JH: Seven years ago, what made you choose Johnson County as the school you wanted to coach at?
BC: It was a family decision, honestly. We loved the idea of living in this community and raising our family here. Professionally, I felt like we could build something really special here. As a coach, you just want to be where you can attract good players and have a chance to compete for championships and work with good people. JCCC has all that.
JH: What is your favorite movie?
BC: I love movies and prefer a top 10. But if you pressed me on one or two, I’d have to say “Goodwill Hunting” or “Shawshank Redemption.”
JH: Who is your favorite athlete?
BC: You can’t beat Michael Jordan’s competitiveness, toughness and work ethic. But probably for another week or two, I’m going to go with Alexis Brown.
JH: What is your favorite food?
BC: Unfortunately, all food is my favorite.
JH: Who is your favorite artist or band?
BC: I love all music, but you can’t beat Kenny Chesney in concert.