“I thought about the timing of my decision ..and if there was anything about the timing that seemed odd, it was that (it coincided with Brubacher’s),” Allen said.
“I have resigned right now due to wanting to make some more time for family…and other things, but family is the main factor.”
Allen also wanted to make it clear that his other position at Tabor—dean of enrollment management—is a job he intends to keep:
“My work will be full time in enrollment management, and to give both jobs what it would take to do them justice, especially with the way the (enrollment managment) job has grown is just not feasible any more…
“But I want to emphasize that the primary factor is my desire and need to give more time to my family.”
A third factor in Allen’s decision-making process came in the form of the opportunity to hand the program over to Winter, one of his former assistants.
Allen said he believes “the program is in good hands, and that was important to me.”
Allen said “the fact that he was ready to take over made this decision that I know in my heart is right a lot easier to make.”
“The relationships with the players and their parents and the other constituents of the team are what made it so fulfilling, and motivated me to work so hard, to strive for excellence…
“There was a lot of sadness,” he continued, “but get over that sadness and what does the future look like?
“I wanted it to be bright in their eyes, and I believe that it is bright. So I’m excited about the new head coach.
“I loved coaching and I’ll always consider myself a coach, and I felt called to coach at Tabor College.
“I just know that for right now, this is the right decision.”
Allen’s conference record is 82-26, and his overall record at Tabor stands at 128-59. After six years of excellence under Allen’s leadership, the team is well-established among the top teams in the KCAC.
“It feels good to make this decision knowing that’s true,” Allen said. “But remember, that’s not just about me. There are a lot of people who invested a lot of time and effort to get the program to this point.”
Winter’s first run with the team made significant gains.
“In that time that he helped,” Allen said, “we averaged over 20 wins a season we won 2 conference championships, we had one undefeated conference season, and we went to the national tournament sweet 16 twice.”
More than simply a matter of wins and losses, Allen describes the job in terms of building and maintaining relationships, and he says Winter has all the skills required for success:
“He has a good rapport with the players, and he treats them with respect…he has passion for (coaching) and he immerses himself in it…and he’s a Tabor grad, so he understands the institution well.”
During his time with the program time, Winter was involved in every aspect of its operation, including recruiting, scouting and fund-raising.
Winter returns to the program after a year, and brings with him a renewed sense of purpose
Winter graduated from Tabor in the spring of 1997 with a degree in social science.
“After ten years, a lot of things have changed,” he said. “But a lot of things have stayed the same.”
“The mission of the school has not wavered, and the climate on campus is, I would say, much the same…but there are a lot of new faces.”
But many of Winter’s undergraduate instructors are still present, including Brubacher, who coached him during his time at Tabor.
“I played under Don for two years, and during that time I felt like I learned a lot about basketball and a lot about life,” Winter said.
“From there I was able to come on board with Rusty, and I learned to love coaching during that time.”
Working in every area of Allen’s program, Winter “came to believe that this is what I’m supposed to do.”
Winter joined the program as an assistant in the fall of 2001 and worked with Allen through the end of 2006.
“After that I took a year off and my wife and I sorted some things out…with Rusty stepping away, this has been a very natural transition for me,” he said.
“I know almost all the players on the team, either having coached them or recruited them, and I think this is as smooth a change as we could possibly have hoped for.”
Much of the 2007-08 team’s style will be familiar to fans of the particular brand of man-to-man defense and motion offense that was played in Hillsboro during Allen’s tenure.
“I grew up with basketball, and I have a strong foundation and understanding of the way basketball is supposed to be played,” Winter said. “And I really get excited about teaching the game.”
And, like his mentor, building relationships is an aspect of the job that Winter values highly.
“(Building relationships) is important to me, and that’s one of the reasons I want to coach at Tabor,” he said.
“Basketball is important, but there are other things in life that are much more important, and I’m going to keep those things in order.”
“We want to see people grow in their spiritual lives and we want to see people graduate…it’s a more holistic approach to the game here than elsewhere.”
Bringing athletics and academics together with Tabor’s distinctive Christian spiritual goals was pursued by Allen as a three-pronged approach to excellence.
“As coaches, we have a big responsibility for all three of those things,” Winter said. “We try to address as much of that as we can during the recruiting process, to make sure we’re recruiting young women who will fit our basketball program and our campus.”
And with much of the core of Allen’s 2007 team graduating, returning guards will form the core of Winter’s 2008 team and provide veteran leadership.
“We have a number of people recovering from surgeries or getting ready for surguries…but with that said, guard play will definitely be a strength next year,” Winter said.
“We have all of our guards returning, and that means that perimeter play and team quickness will be strengths next year.”
But with the graduation of top forwards Nicole Ellis, Emily Vogts and Donya Anderson, recruiting is an immediate emphasis for the new coach.
“There’s a gap there…we have returning players we hope can step up, and we’re looking at recruiting to help finish out the team for next year,” he said.
While the Bluejays prefer to bring in players out of high school, a junior college transfer is well within the realm of possibilities.
Beyond recruiting, discipline and accountability were, Winter said, important pieces of the program that Allen established.
“He set the bar high and raised expectations for people working hard,” Winter said.
Winter said that Allen’s high expectations extended into the off-season.
“Being willing to improve themselves during the off-season.
“The off-season is really the key for improving individual play…you have limited time to work on individual skills during the season.
“And coach Allen put a lot of emphasis on individuals improving themselves, so that they can improve for four years.
“I’ve seen players come in as freshmen and graduate as much better players, and that hard work in the off-season is what pays off.”
So Winter’s top priority this offseason is to improve the team, a task that, perhaps especially in the context of a college that is adament about maintaining its Christian distinctive, presents its own unique set of challenges.
“I feel like I understand Tabor well, and I feel like I understand the students who want to come to Tabor well,” he said. “I feel like that part of recruiting comes naturally to me.”
One aspect of the job that Winter indicated may come less naturally to him is the nuanced art of coaching players who have different personalities:
“Bringing people together, and getting everyone on the same page, with the same vision and the same mission…you can’t have people trying to do their own thing, and I learned a lot about creating an atmosphere of unity from Rusty.”
He cited the stability, discipline and leadership that Allen brought to the program.
“Prior to his coming to Tabor, the women’s basketball program had a lot of ups and downs and coaching changes…he brought discipline to the program,” Winter said.
And Winter will be working through the summer to build on the foundation Allen laid.