Jan. 22, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

It’s been said that coaching together can sometimes be like a marriage, but for Southwest Baptist University’s Jeff and Tina Guiot, it really is.

Jeff is the head coach of the Bearcats’ successful Division II men’s basketball program, and his wife Tina is right by his side as an assistant coach for the team.  The pair met at Pittsburg State University, where Jeff played basketball and then served as graduate assistant for the men’s team while getting his Master’s degree.  At the same time, Tina, a graduate of SBU, was getting her coaching career started as a graduate assistant for the Pittsburg State women’s squad.  The two married the following year.

After finishing at PSU, Jeff coached high school for four years before becoming the head coach at Neosho County Community College in his hometown of Chanute, Kan.  Since funds were limited, the program could only afford a part-time assistant that was paid about $400 per month and Jeff was able to hire a very young kid.  He did not have to look far, however, for some more experienced help.   That year, Tina began assisting with the team’s academics, and sitting on the bench keeping game book files.  She did it for seven seasons at the junior college, and when Jeff got the head coaching position at Bemidji State University, she continued in the same role.

“She’s been on the bench ever since – she’s just never been paid for it,” said Jeff.  “It was strictly a volunteer situation.”

As he entered his fifth season at SBU in Bolivar, Mo., Jeff was presented with an assistant’s position to fill, and when no one that fit quite right, he again turned to Tina.

“This year, when our assistant coach took the women’s head job, we decided to slide her over into that position and get paid for what she has basically been doing the whole time with the program,” said Jeff.

The situation may not be ideal for every couple, but Jeff and Tina have been able to make it work.

“I have no trouble that Jeff is the boss, which is one reason I wouldn’t recommend it for a lot of women,” said Tina. “That’s not to say I’m not a little sassy.  Sometimes, I forget I’m not the boss, but the nice thing about it is that I never want his job.”

Tina had always “trained” Jeff’s new assistants on how he likes to run the program, and on what to do and not do, so when Jeff officially hired her there was no learning curve.

“She loves to coach and is very knowledgeable and knows what I expect,” said Jeff.  “When you’ve been married for 20 years, I can start a sentence and she can finish it for me.  It works for us.”

The pair has also juggled basketball with raising three children – Crystal (19), Preston (17), and Payton (9) – making for a very family-like atmosphere.  The players have even been calling Tina “Mama Guiot” for years.

“A lot of people say their programs are like family – we really are,” said Tina.  “We try to treat our players like family.  That’s the biggest plus of the whole thing.”

“We try to involve the family in the program as much as possible,” said Jeff.  “They’ve been to many practices and when we can take them on road games, we take them with us.  Basketball is a part of our lives and it’s important to keep the kids a part of that as well.  It’s no different than a family business – to make it work the whole family has got to be involved.”

Tina’s favorite part of working with the team is seeing them reaching their potential or maximizing it in the classroom.

“I keep a really close eye on what the kids are doing in the classroom,” said Tina.  “I want them to succeed 10 years down the road, and we talk about that.  Most kids that come to college have no idea – they just see tomorrow.  To me, it’s very fulfilling to see former players doing something with their lives.”

Basketball has not only been a job for the Guiots, but their passion.

“We don’t really like to do anything else,” said Tina.  “We don’t really have hobbies.  We love what we do – we love basketball.  About four years ago, our family tried to take a three-day vacation and about killed each other because we were bored.”

There has certainly been no lack of excitement this season for the couple.  Southwest Baptist is ranked sixth nationally, and sits at the top of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association standings.  The Bearcats lead the league in scoring (91.1 ppg) and blocked shots (5.83 pg). 

SBU looks to remain in first place in the MIAA when it takes on Central Missouri on Jan. 24.  The Mules are tied for second with Emporia State in the league standings.