Assistant coach Gerdeman pushes men's basketball to high academic standards

Central Michigan assistant coach Kyle Gerdeman poses for a portrait before practice on Feb. 8 at McGuirk Arena.

When Kyle Gerdeman arrived at Central Michigan to become an assistant basketball coach, he had no idea how he obtained a role involving academics.

“I really just don’t know,” Gerdeman said. “I do know I’ve always dealt with academics, whether it was in junior college or when I was at South East Missouri (State), maybe that played a role in it but I really don’t know.”

CMU head coach Keno Davis received his first Division I assistant coaching job at South East Missouri State. Gerdeman, a senior, was finishing school as a student assistant manager there. 

Davis said they stayed in touch ever since.

“When I got the job here he reached out and wanted to have a conversation about getting a job coaching at CMU,” Davis said. “We discussed if it would be a good fit here and luckily it’s worked out ever since.”

Davis said he liked how Gerdeman was a head coach previously with Moberly Area Community College where he developed a program.

“I knew I could trust him and at the junior college level you're usually trying to turn a program around every couple of years,” Davis said. “When it came to recruiting good student athletes, Kyle was a guy who could help push us in the right direction.”

In his five seasons with CMU, Gerdeman has been a big part of leading the Chippewas to making academic strides. For the past three seasons, the Chippewas have had the most honored players on the Academic All-MAC team.

In the last four seasons, six CMU men’s basketball players have combined to earn Academic All-MAC honors 14 times.

“We have had really good high character and academic kids to start with,” Gerdeman said. “Davis set the tone in year one on what type of people he wanted to recruit. In reality, it’s a group effort between all of us, I just set up a lot of the meetings with the academic side.”

Outside of dealing with academics and scheduling, Gerdeman has a responsibility on the floor to better the team’s rebounding skills while overseeing statistical analysis of their play to identify trends and tendencies they can improve on.

“It is important to stress how important it is rebounding on both ends of the floor,” Gerdeman said. “I think experience plays a role because there have been nights in their career where poor rebounding has hurt us at times. Now I think they take pride in it and we work at it everyday.”

Gerdeman led his team to a third place finish in rebounding for the Mid-American Conference in the 2016-17 season with 38.9 boards per game. This season the Chippewas are second in the MAC for rebounding margin with a plus-2.9 margin.

Sophomore forward David DiLeo, who leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game, said it is nice to have a coach helping on and off the court.

“Yeah he’s always kind of checking in with me about grades and with as many goals as I have with basketball he knows I want my college degree,” DiLeo said. “So on top of helping me become a better player, it’s nice to have a coach that helps us balance everything.”

John McCarty, known as one of the team's academic motivators, said the program has really helped him mature into a adult.

“I try to help motivate the guys on my team in the classroom because one day the ball stops bouncing but you have your brain forever,” he said.

Gerdeman said the most gratifying part of his job is the process he helps players go through in their time with CMU.

“We get a lot of compliments about our guys who graduate with degrees and our overall GPA, but not everyone comes in perfect,” Gerdeman said “You have to find the positives in the guy who gets the 2.8 (GPA) but works hard and walks away with a degree.

“To me, that’s just as good as the guy who gets a 4.0.”