The Rock Bridge Bruins are bringing Kevin Giese back to Columbia and his family.
Giese, who was hired in May to be the new girls’ basketball coach at Rock Bridge, spent the past year as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville while his wife Beth and his two children, Andrea, 8, and Kenneth, 2, stayed in Columbia.
The family, which came to Columbia from Iowa in 2002 when Giese became the coach for women’s basketball and tennis at Stephens College, planned to follow him to Edwardsville once Beth Giese found a job there. That didn’t happen, though, and when the job at Rock Bridge opened the plan changed.
“This is not a year that anybody would do on purpose,” Beth Giese said. “It is a huge relief to have him coming back home. It was hard on the kids, it was hard on us, and it was hard on me individually to have to be the only parent for that much time.”
Kevin Giese, 46, said that being away from his family made it a long year. He tried to come home every weekend, but during basketball season visits lasted 24 hours. Giese would come home early Sunday mornings, then leave early Monday mornings.
Beth Giese said that Kenneth always asked for his father, too young to understand the situation, but that Andrea understood better.
“He is a fantastic father, and I think that is one of the biggest things that has been hard about this year,” Beth Giese said.
“I feel sad about everything that he has been missing out on. I tell him things over the phone and I can just hear in his voice that its killing him that he is not here.”
She said the family would have moved, if things hadn’t changed. She sees coaching as what her husband was meant to do.
“Andrea told (her father) during this whole interview process that she was OK with whatever he did as long as he continued to be a coach,” Beth Giese said.
Kevin Giese said he knows his kids identify him as a coach, but that is because they have never known him as anything different.
“I started out as a high school coach, I never thought about doing anything but teaching and coaching at a high school level,” Giese said.
During Giese’s one season at SIUE, a Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference program, he and head coach Marty Simmons led the team to a 16-13 record, the first winning season for the Cougars in five years. SIUE went 9-18 in 2002-03.
“We made considerable improvement,” Simmons said. “(Giese) played a big part in it, and a lot of what he has done will be seen in this next season.”
Simmons, who coached with Giese during the 1996-97 season at Wartburg College, said that despite their success at SIUE, he has noticed how hard it has been for Giese.
“We’re going to miss him, but he is a head coach,” Simmons said. “I know he feels fortunate to get to come back to Columbia. He and his family love the community. He has got a good situation. He cares a lot about his wife, he cares a lot about his kids, and it took its toll. He put a lot of miles going back and forth.”
In Columbia, Giese will try to help out another basketball team with a losing record. The Rock Bridge girls’ basketball team went 6-20 last season.
Giese said that he is going to give his new job 100 percent effort, and he will ask the players to do the same.
“There is no reason why we’re not winning state championships like the other athletic teams at Rock Bridge,” Giese said.
Forward Ashley Stanfill, who will be a senior at Rock Bridge in the fall, said she expects success next year.
“Rock Bridge has never really had a good name in girls basketball, it has always been Hickman, Hickman, Hickman,” Stanfill said. “Coach Giese really wants to come in and change that.”
In June before Giese’s contract with SIUE ended, he used a week of his vacation time to get on the court with his new team. He took part in the basketball camp at Rock Bridge then brought 12 players to the MU basketball camp where the team went 10-0.
“(The week) was a real positive for the team and showed the girls that with hard work they can achieve the success that we want,” Giese said.
Beth Giese said that her husband is the type of person to have a huge impact on his player’s lives. Before Kevin Giese moved back to Columbia he had been calling Stanfill for updates on the team.
Stanfill said Giese spoke about team barbecues with players’ families. Beth Giese said her family will be a big part of the team.
“It’s a great school, a great system, and my family loves Columbia,” Kevin Giese said. “I see no reason why I shouldn’t be retiring from this job.”