Although Steve Lutz always loved playing basketball, he had no idea he would one day coach the Creighton University Bluejays of Omaha, Neb., in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament. When Lutz ’95 transferred to Texas Lutheran University, he joined the basketball team, declared a major in business and was ready to make his way though TLU’s highly regarded program. However, after a few statistics and accounting courses, Lutz began to realize math was not his strong suit. So, he went back to square one—basketball. His decision to become a coach has taken him through a total of 18 seasons at several universities and led him to his current position as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at CU.
After graduating from TLU, the kinesiology major went on to earn his Master of Education from the University of Incarnate Word, hoping to work as an assistant coach for the university. He was able to secure a position there while working on his master’s. While he admits his first coaching stint was anything but glamorous, he contributed to the program’s success.
“My first year, I was living at home, teaching private lessons and waiting tables to try and supplement my $2,000 coaching salary from the school and tuition costs,” Lutz said. “I was very fortunate to be able to coach while going through their Master of Education program and I ended up spending four years there as assistant coach. Incarnate Word was nationally ranked No. 1 in their division when I left.“
Upon leaving UIW, Lutz coached at Garden City Community College in Kansas before joining the staff at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. Lutz said his six years at SFAU really allowed him to break into the ranks of college basketball and shape young men into successful players. While he spent years developing his reputation as a recruiter within the basketball community, it was his move from SFAU to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and eventually to CU that took him to the next level.
“The move from Division II sports to Division I is intense and very rewarding,” Lutz said. “Division I is a whole other ball game and has its own different levels you must go through. At TLU, I learned to be a hard worker and to not take opportunities for granted. Those characteristics have translated into my career as a coach. TLU was a perfect fit for me. It helped me maintain the same values my parents instilled in me like putting in the hard work to achieve your goals. TLU continually shaped me as a person. College basketball leaves a very small margin for error. When you go out in front of a crowd of 17,000 plus people, the feeling and the adrenaline you get from a win is amazing. But, the low of losing at that level can eat at you and you must be prepared to overcome the pendulums. My TLU experience taught me how to overcome obstacles.”
Lutz’s 2013 trip to the NCAA tournament was his second time making it to the third round of college basketball’s biggest stage. After all his years in the coaching and recruiting arena, the best part of his career, he said, is still working with young athletes.
“Being able to see a young student come in at 17 or 18 and transform into a 21 or 22-year-old man is invaluable,” Lutz said. “I get to develop a relationship with my athletes and see them leave college with a degree and ready to make an impact in the world.”
Although Lutz said he never completely rules out making the jump to professional basketball, he remains committed to his role as a coach and mentor for his athletes.
“I’ve had opportunities to work within the NBA, but I don’t feel I’d retain the reward of seeing young men grow like I do in college ball,” he said. “It’s a great feeling and I’m lucky to be able to do what I do every day.”