UIndy Head Basketball Coach Stan Gouard Talks Family, Friendships & Fierce Work Ethic
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
As a young boy playing Little League ball in Danville, Illinois, Stan Gouard looked up to his seven brothers and sisters with love and admiration. He aspired to be strong and athletic like his brothers, and his sisters helped him appreciate a female’s emotional needs.
“Siblings, in general, teach us values, work ethic and the right way to treat people,” says Gouard, who learned another valuable lesson about life via basketball. He spent his youth playing ball and was a starter on the middle school basketball team, but he was dealt a huge blow his junior year of high school when he was cut from the team. Though gut-wrenching, it was a reality check.
“I could either sit around feeling sorry for myself or I could do something about it,” says Gouard, who used his free time to improve his game and focus on academics. His senior year he was named MVP of the squad, and he also made the all-conference team.
“Honestly, it was good to get cut,” Gouard says. “When it first happened, my dad told me that it wasn’t the end of the world — only a setback I would bounce back from.”
And bounce he did. Gouard went on to play ball at John A. Logan College, then at the University of Southern Indiana where the team won a national championship in 1995. In college, he was named the Division II National Player of the year and he had a number of NBA teams showing interest. His agent encouraged him to go to Europe and come back for the NBA, so in 1996 he was drafted in the Continental Basketball Association (the Continental Basketball League back then was the G League of this era). Moving to Europe to play professionally was initially a trying experience.
“Back then we didn’t have the technology we have today,” Gouard says. “I couldn’t Skype or Facetime with my family. I had to use the pay phone at crazy hours of the night because of the time difference. I had to go to the library to send an e-mail.”
Ultimately, he racked up a $10K phone bill calling home to talk to his mom and girlfriend. Food proved to be another challenge. A self-proclaimed picky eater, he was delighted to find a McDonalds in Finland that sustained him. Despite the culinary challenges, Gouard treasures the experience.
“I got a chance to see a different part of the world,” says Gouard, who also played in Columbia, South America, leading the Barranquilla Ciamanes to the 1999 championship. When his five-year plan of playing in the NBA was thwarted by injuries, he began to contemplate his long-term career goal.
“Coaching was somehow instilled in my bloodlines. I always wanted to be the guy making the decisions,” says Gouard, who returned to the U.S. in 2000 to pursue a head coaching job with his high school alma mater. When that didn’t pan out, he took a position as an academic advisor at John A. Logan College. He then accepted an assistant coaching job at the University of Southern Indiana.
“It was cool to go back to coach at my college alma mater,” Gouard says.
He became an assistant coach at the University of Indianapolis, then coached at Indiana State for three years before returning to Indy in 2008 to become UIndy’s head basketball coach, eager to begin building his own program.
When Gouard recruits players, he chats with them on the phone, completes a personal home visit to get to know the family and reviews the student’s social media profiles for a glimpse into who they are.
“I want to know how these guys carry themselves. What do they put out there?” Gouard says. “It’s like the old saying goes, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’”
And of course, Coach Gouard also watches them play — repeatedly.
“The average kid we recruit we see play between 40 and 50 times over the course of AAU and high school,” says Gouard, who often attends games when the student doesn’t know he’s coming.
“I watch how he reacts when facing adversity,” Gouard says. “Is he a good teammate? Does he talk back to the coach? When he’s walking off the court, is he disrespectful to the officials? If he is, I won’t take him. Investing in a kid is like buying stock. You’ve got to watch it and build off it.”
“We’ll never try to do number 3 without 1 and 2 first,” Gouard says. “Winning is always secondary.”
Winning is also fun. During the 2014-2015 season, the Greyhounds celebrated a 17-game winning streak, ultimately finishing with a 25-6 record and winning their division league play.
“It was amazing to be on that ride and be ranked the No. 1 team in the country,” Gouard says. “We had great coaches, and our guys responded in positive ways every night.”
As much as he adores his job, Gouard treasures quality family time with his wife Chastity, their 9-year-old daughter Kennedy, and their 3-year-old Mini Golden Doodle Cali. That’s why every day he puts Kennedy on the bus before heading into the office.
When he gets home at 6:30 p.m., he turns off his phone until 9:30 p.m., reserving those three hours for his wife and daughter. He then makes recruiting calls from 9:30-10:15 p.m. The remainder of the evening is devoted to his wife. If he has to travel late in the week for out-of-town games, he’s sure not to travel early in the week as well.
“I strive to maintain a good work-life balance,” says Gouard, who has been an Avon resident for three years, attracted primarily by the stellar Avon school system.
“Our daughter was reserved prior to moving here, but the teachers in this district have helped her come out of her shell,” he says.
“I never go through a day without a kid in our office, and that’s how I want it,” Gouard says. “In fact, if I don’t see a kid for a few days, I’ll check up on them.”
And it goes both ways. Sometimes the students, who have their coach’s home and cell number, will call him just to say hello.
“That’s a great feeling when an athlete calls to ask how my day is going,” says Gouard, who hosted the team for Thanksgiving. Over Christmas break, they all gathered to watch NBA games, play board games and enjoy food catered from Charbonos.
In his spare time, Gouard enjoys doing yard work.
“I love cutting my grass,” he says. “My neighbor gives me a hard time because I do it every four days.”
In fact, he and his wife have created a tradition where he takes off Chastity’s birthday to help her plant flowers in May.
They put in the work and then sit back and watch their beautiful flowers bloom. It’s analogous to what he does at UIndy with his players, as he witnesses growth, both on and off the court, in his student-athletes.
“I’m here to help these young men grow as people,” Gouard says. “They leave as mature men who can go out and get a job, raise a family and make a difference in society.”