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Continuing his father’s legacy

Southwestern Community College men’s basketball coach Todd Lorensen carries over lessons learned to Spartans from basketball coach and father

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 2:32 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 7:42 a.m. CDT
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A dynamic father-son coaching combination gathers after Southwestern Community College men’s basketball game against Iowa Lakes on Feb. 25 in Creston. Fred Lorensen, left, has been a long time coach at PCM, Monore. He’s led them to 10 state tournaments and one state title. Meanwhile son Todd, right, is making a name for himself coaching the NJCAA Division II top-ranked Spartans to a trip at the national tournament.
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(CNA photo by RYAN KRONBERG )
Southwestern Community College Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Lorensen, left, talks with his father, Fred, after a recent Spartan home game

Todd Lorensen’s had a perfect role model from a young age.

He had an ideal teacher for his career as head men’s basketball coach at Southwestern Community College.

Those formative lessons started in central Iowa, growing up around Prairie City-Monroe Mustang basketball.

What he learned as the son of one of Iowa’s most successful prep basketball coaches has carried over into the world of coaching college basketball.

Todd’s role model and teacher is a regular in the bleachers of the Southwestern gym. After games, they retreat to Lorensen’s office to talk over the game and the things that went well and didn’t go so well.

It is not just any person.

It is his role model and mentor – Todd’s father Fred.

As a youth, Todd was a regular around his father’s basketball practices.

“I don’t remember the exact year, day or moment, but as I can reasonably recollect, I always remember being around it,” Todd said. “Every day, I would ride the bus to the high school and go to practice. Some nights, we’d be home by 6 or 7. If it was a home game, I’d be there until the end of the game. If it was a road game, it would be later. I was fortunate to go to those.”

At an early age, Todd was a self-proclaimed “gym rat.”

Those are memories the 32-year old rlishes.

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in that environment,” Todd said. “I cherished it.”

What farming is to some sons and fathers, basketball was to the Lorensens.

Vacations weren’t spent in exotic locales, such as Disney World or somewhere in the Caribbean.

They were spent at a sporting event or a camp.

Summers were spent in the gym or the baseball field where Fred was also the baseball coach for many years.

Those formative years provided Todd invaluable experience he uses now with his players at Southwestern. 

Todd learned plenty about how to coach the game of basketball from his father.

“He worked hard,” Fred said. “He really understood the game. We could come home and watch tape. At an early age, he understood a lot of stuff about the game.”

Life lessons

It was off the court lessons that proved even more valuable.

Todd’s most important lessons were how to treat players, those around the program with respect and make them feel important no matter what.

“I can say I’m most thankful for the way he treated people. From the college president to students, the staff members, those in the business office, custodians, office assistants, everyone plays a piece in what you’re trying to do,” Todd said. “Watching him do it all those years, I saw how important it was.”

Fred showed Todd how important the little things were.

“There’s no detail too small,” Todd said. “Brad Stevens, he sweeps the floor every day. To see me as the head coach sweeping the floor, is it too much for me to ask them to bring something back, play hard on defense? There’s nothing too small not to be important.

“He would thank the custodians. Dean Smith was big on that,” Todd said. “Something he took pride in was when he would leave the visiting locker room, he would make sure every paper towel, every Gatorade cup, every scrap of paper was picked up. That’s representative of him and the institution. He doesn’t want anyone to think of him negatively.”

Fred treated all the same, whether it was his players, assistants or administrators.

Fred was fair to all of his players, no matter what situation or circumstance they came from.

It has helped Todd in his role recruiting players to Southwestern.

“A kid from Memphis has a different upbringing than a kid from Creston. Because of that, I handle things on a case-by-case basis, at the same time treat everybody fairly. I firmly believe that if you treat a player fair, be honest with them, it’s good,” Todd said. “You always tell the guys you may not like what I have to say sometimes. They may not always like what you say. The truth is hard. In that moment, they may not like it, but if you know you told the truth, as hard as it can be, it’s better than giving a false hope and it never becomes a reality because I misled you.”

Todd pointed out Fred has worked for two athletic directors in 40 years.

Fred is widely respected within the Prairie City and Monroe communities to this day.

“I firmly believe in close to 40 years, even though folks didn’t agree on everything he did, if you ask them about the man Fred Lorensen is, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t respect him and the way he’s carried himself over 40 years.”

Fred taught Todd the importance of more than being a good basketball player.

“I don’t know if it was the pressure of being a coach’s kid or a teacher’s kid, but there was a little different expectation,” Todd said. “Most teachers’ kids turn out to be good students. I turned in my homework on time. I didn’t get in trouble.”

Those standards carried over to practice.

Todd admitted he was not the perfect child. Fred showed Todd much patience and grace as Todd learned, grew up.

“I’m sure it had to be hard on him,” Todd said. “Looking back, dad was way too generous with me.”

While Todd’s parents were divorced, his mother stayed actively involved.

She was a regular back then at Todd’s games and comes to Creston even now to watch Southwestern games.

“It was a different bond, but my mom was beyond supportive,” Todd said. “I don’t ever remember her missing a game I played in.”

Todd’s mom was involved with his sporting activities and those of Todd’s sisters Stacy and Gina.

“It was a unique situation there,” Fred said. “It was really good. Mom was always around. She had them almost every weekend. For the situation we were in, she and I got along. We were always there for the kids. For not being together, it was as good as it could have been. We were very supporting of them, go to all their stuff.”

Those tough years turned out all right in the end.

“It worked out really well. I had three really great kids for the circumstances,” Fred said.

Youth

Todd was a natural for spots even as a young child.

“When he was a toddler, he always had a ball in his hand, whether it was a basketball, a football or a baseball,” Fred recalled.

Todd had a natural aptitude for basketball at a young age. His prowess on the court came early.

“I remember like it was yesterday, Todd was in the second grade. He was playing with the fifth and sixth graders,” Fred said. “He could play with those guys. It was his indoctrination into becoming a basketball player.”

It was not just basketball though. 

“He was involved in a lot of stuff,” Fred said. “He played football, basketball, did track, played baseball through his freshman year. He dropped out of that to do summer basketball.”

Todd’s natural acumen for the game showed up.

“He wasn’t a great athlete. He wasn’t the fastest. He wasn’t the tallest guy, but he was really skilled,” Fred said. “He played receiver in football. In basketball, he was our point guard. He could’ve been a really good baseball player if he didn’t have the time constraints to focus on basketball.”

Fred’s PCM teams were good when Todd was young, but couldn’t quite get over the hump.

When Todd reached high school, followed a year later by future NFL tight end Brandon Myers, the Mustangs broke through and reached state.

Those nights after wins in the substate games saw the communities, later on at home, erupt in elation over reaching the state tournament, then held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

All four of Todd’s years in high school, the Mustangs reached state, but never could reach the pinnacle.

“We had some gut wrenching losses at state,” Fred said.

Learning under his father made the transition first to Quincy University for one year, then to Grand View University for the next three easy for Todd.

“He was a great man, treated all of his players with the utmost respect,” Todd said. “It made the transition easy from playing for my father to playing for someone else.”

Coaching

Todd has worked with quality coaches either in coaching or as a player, such as Grand View University’s Denis Schaefer both as a player and as a coach, Truman State and Iowa Energy coach Matt Woodley and Nebraska-Omaha coach Derrin Hansen among others.

“He has had some really great mentors who have done a good job,” Fred said. “He’s learning stuff along the way and taking it with his personality. He has a good base, background, knowledge of working with people. It’s a great advantage for what he’s doing now at SWCC.”

Todd’s success at Southwestern, not the easiest place to win, impresses his father.

“Southwestern is a really hard place to win,” Fred said. “I know looking down through the years, they’ve had some pretty lengthy periods of struggles. Compared to other schools, other towns, if a kid wants to go to college, are they going to go hang around Fort Dodge or Creston. Fort Dodge has more toys than them. Then you have DMACC and Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids. You’re competing against athletes pretty hard. Sometimes it’s a pretty hard sell.”

Southwestern’s success increases the lure of coming to Creston.

Combine Todd’s basketball knowledge and personable demeanor and it adds up to a big winner for Southwestern.

“He’s a real reasonable person,” Fred said. “He didn’t get that from me. He goes to some place where he’s never met somebody and talks to them like he’s known them for 20 years when he’s recruiting, doing those things. He’s got a knack or that. He enjoys recruiting. That’s supposed to be the bad part of the job. He enjoys that. He’s had good success getting people to that school.”

Todd’s in-game strategy has helped lead Southwestern to where it is at 32-1 and in the national tournament for the first time since 1999.

“He’s got a good knowledge, good insight when to do different things,” Fred said. “If he has a timeout and draws up a play, it’s usually really successful. He has a knack for knowing when to make subtle changes. That’s what separates winning and losing.”

Todd’s commitment to the players also shines.

Todd juggles his role as athletic director effectively while maintaining a wildly successful basketball team.

“In his situation as athletic director, that’s quite a bit of stuff to have on his plate,” Fred said. “He’s done a good job with it. He’s involved as a fundraiser. Being AD is not just one of those go in and do it in parts. He really needs to do good in all three facets. You know he has a lot of stuff going on. It’s supervising all the activities, baseball and softball, then he’s had some positions to fill in the last year or two. There’s always stuff going on.”

To this day, they talk regularly, whether in person or on the phone. Fred has even become more adapt at technology, sharing a text message with Todd.

“It depends on the week, but we talk at least two, three times, sometimes daily,” Todd said. “We usually see each other one to two days a week. On Sundays, we usually touch base about how Saturday games went. It’s usually a phone call, but he’s getting hip and using a text message. Those who know my dad smirk and smile. He’s about as technologically illiterate as they come.”

Fred’s lessons carry on to Todd and will for many years to come.

“People joke that if they can be half the man of their father, they’d be successful,” Todd said. “I’m still scratching, clawing and fighting to get there.”

Wins and losses are dissected.

“We certainly like to talk about the close wins more than the close losses,” Todd said. “Just having him supporting me, knowing he has my back, good and ugly, is great. We always have fun. We enjoy it, embrace each other. To look back at guys a little deeper into the profession, look back and have a better perspective, trying to learn from them and realize how special this is.”

Having his mentor, and father, be in close proximity, a phone call a way means much to odd.

“I’ve now been a head coach only four years. To go back to a guy that has almost 40 years of experiences, even though he’s at the high school level, the similarities are there,” Todd said. 

“To be able to lean on him has been invaluable.”

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