Ball State men’s basketball coach Michael Lewis counts on his “competitive fire” and experience to lead his program in a winning direction
In March, Michael Lewis was hired as Ball State’s new head men’s basketball coach. He comes to Ball State after a three-year stint as an assistant coach at UCLA, helping the Bruins post a 68-30 record.
The former Indiana University standout player spent 18 seasons as an assistant coach at Nebraska (2016-19), Butler (2011-16), Eastern Illinois (2005-11) and Stephen F. Austin (2004-05).
Coach Lewis, who played at IU from 1996-2000, finished his collegiate career as Indiana’s all-time leader in career assists (545), which now ranks second in the program’s history.
The Jasper, Indiana, native finished his high school career in 13th place on Indiana’s all-time high school scoring list with 2,138 career points at Jasper High School.
It’s a new era for Ball State men’s basketball, and Coach Lewis is bullish on the Cardinals, as evident in this Q&A:
This is your first head coaching job. What attracted you to Ball State?
Lots of things, actually. There’s a strong tradition of quality basketball here, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for me and my family to get back home to Indiana. I am also incredibly impressed with the vision of athletic director Beth Goetz for our program, as well as the leadership and support I saw from President Mearns. Ball State is simply a great fit for us.
In high school and college, you were known as a hard-nosed, highly-focused player. What are your expectations for your players at Ball State?
Any good team will take on the persona of its head coach, and that’s what I want to happen here. We will have a simple, singular mindset: either you truly love the game of basketball, and you love the privilege to compete at the highest level, or you will not put on a Ball State uniform.
How will you approach recruiting?
First off, we will concentrate on our own backyard. There’s an immense talent pool in Indiana, and I’m fortunate from my playing days to have a wealth of good contacts in the state. That also means I will build a staff that understands the dynamics of recruiting and the connections to keep Ball State in front of solid players. But at the same time, if we see a player we feel is a good fit here, we’ll go anywhere to get them.
The Ball State men’s team has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2000. What needs to happen for that to change?
I am perfectly honest when I say that we’re not that far off. At UCLA this past season, we played Akron in the tournament and they could have easily beat us. And I look at how Ball State competes in the MAC against teams like that—it comes down to a handful of possessions, and we have to learn how to win those. There’s outstanding basketball played in the MAC. And this university has had its share of good teams. There’s no reason that can’t be the case again.
What would you say to the fans?
My overwhelming thought is simply that ‘I can’t wait to meet you.’ Fan support is the lifeblood of any team. We want a family atmosphere and a community atmosphere. We want to see you at Worthen Arena, and you have the commitment of myself and my staff to put a team on the floor that is fun to watch and gives 110 percent every game.