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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Former Hawk Dowling now an assistant coach at Kansas State

2005 graduate is a 16-year veteran of college coaching

PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland — When Jareem Dowling was a captain of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore basketball team for two seasons, from 2003 to 2005, he admits he couldn’t have pictured himself where he stands today — an assistant coach on the Kansas State Basketball staff of new head coach Jerome Tang.

Jareem Dowling (Courtesy Photo Eastern Maryland Shores Athletics)

Dowling, a native of the Virgin Islands, like Tang, had moved to Wilmington, Delaware during his high school years and went on to play two seasons at Cecil College in Northeast Maryland, where his 2002-03 squad advanced to the NJCAA Division II Final Four.

Then, in two seasons at Maryland Eastern Shore, Dowling averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds for a team that didn’t find as much success as he would have liked, winning just 10 games over two seasons. He said the experience taught him hard lessons about dealing with adversity. And for that reason and because it also brought him his four-year degree, he’ll always be a Hawk.

But Dowling had been inspired by his former coach Bill Lewit to go into coaching and after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2005 he jumped at the opportunity to return to Cecil as Lewit’s assistant.

“I didn’t necessarily see myself where I am now, but early on in my career as a player at Cecil, Coach Lewit taught me something,” Dowling said. “He always told me to ‘make the big time where you are.’ So even though the name of the schools changed as I progressed in my coaching career and the perception changed in people’s eyes, everyplace I have ever been was big time and that is how I treated it. Now, in other people’s opinion, I’m big time. No disrespect to anyone, but that was always my mindset. Everyplace I have ever been had been the best place I have ever worked.”

That started at Cecil where the Seahawks won the NJCAA Division II National Championship in 2006. It was the very next year in the summer of 2007 that Dowling first met Tang. The young coach had been named the coach of the 17-under National Team for his home country. Tang  — an assistant coach at Baylor University — was an assistant coach on his Dowling’s Virgin Islands staff and the two quickly began to connect.

Dowling looks back now and knows that after winning a championship in his first year on the bench at Cecil he was already feeling himself a bit too much and starting to look for the next step. Tang had some words of advice.

“He told me I wasn’t ready after one season and if he was a head coach he wouldn’t hire me,” Dowling said. “I appreciated it because it was frank and to the point.”

Stateside, Dowling would remain at Cecil through the end of the 2007-08 season, before moving on to Division II Slippery Rock from 2008-11 where the program had three consecutive winning seasons, including 21-win campaigns in 2008-09 and 2010-11.

He also earned a master’s degree in Sports Management from the California University of Pennsylvania in 2011.

After spending his first season in Division I as an assistant at Morehead State — where they won 18 games in 2011-12 — Dowling joined the staff at Southern Miss.

As an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Southern Miss from 2012-to 15, Dowling helped the Golden Eagles post a 65-37 (.637) record and earn a pair of NIT appearances. The team won 27 games in 2012-13 and captured their first postseason victories since 1988 with their trip to the NIT Quarterfinals, while they collected a school-record 29 wins in 2013-14 and claimed a share of the C-USA regular-season title.

Dowling spent the 2015-16 season as the head coach at Scotland Performance Institute where he worked with several future Division I players, including former Hawk Colen Gaynor (2016-19).

As the years went on, Dowling continued his involvement with Virgin Islands basketball and his coaching relationship and friendship with Tang who remained an assistant at Baylor. Somewhere along the line the two began talking about what they would do “when” they one day coached together.

In 2016-17, Dowling joined the staff of Grant McCasland at Arkansas State. It was a move endorsed by Tang and Lewit and one that was huge for a still young coach at a crossroads.

“I wasn’t chasing money. I wasn’t chasing status. I wasn’t chasing any of that during my career. I was chasing good people,” Dowling said. “I wanted to be around good people that cared outside of wins and losses and actually cared about the players beyond how many rebounds they had and how many points they scored but rather cared about them as human beings.”

He helped the Red Wolves double their win total with a 20-12 overall record, including an 11-7 mark in Sun Belt play, and then followed McCasland to North Texas the next season.

Dowling helped the Mean Green increase their win total by 12 games in year one and capture the school’s first NCAA National Tournament Championship with the College Basketball Invitational Tournament title in 2017-18. The success carried overall into year two in 2018-19, as UNT began the season with a program-best 16-1 start.

It was during his time at North Texas that he met his wife, Laiya. After a relatively short time dating, Dowling was already thinking about proposing and talked it over with Tang. His advice was to pray on it and if it was what he wanted he would even perform the ceremony.

So on Oct. 31, 2018, Tang officiated the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Jareem Dowling.

“My wife agreed to it as well, but I wanted to get married on Halloween because it is the scariest day on the American calendar and it was the scariest day of my life too,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we did it right and we did it in front of her family in person and my family on Facetime in the Virgin Islands and Coach Tang did our vows”

After the 2019-20 season, Dowling was named one of the top 2020 Mid-Major Division I assistant coaches by the Minority Coaches Association.

Dowling recently completed his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Mean Green men’s basketball team in 2021-22 by helping guide UNT to its third straight Conference USA championship, the first time in program history the Mean Green have won a conference title in three consecutive seasons. The squad also played in the NIT where it won an overtime game against Texas State (67-63) in the first round before dropping an overtime stunner to Virginia 71-69.

In his five full seasons at UNT, he helped lead the Mean Green to three conference championships, 104 total wins, the program’s first NCAA Tournament win and first NIT win, a 2018 CBI championship, the most wins in a single season in the program history and twice setting the school record for most conference wins in a season.

He was also a key recruiter at North Texas, identifying and bringing in players such as 2020 C-USA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year and overall C-USA Male Student-Athlete of the Year Javion Hamlet. He’s also recruited the program’s single-season scoring record holder Roosevelt Smart.

Then when Tang was hired away from being the top assistant of Big 12 rival Baylor to helm the Wildcats, he quickly turned to Dowling as the first person named to his staff.

“Jareem is an outstanding addition to the staff and I’m excited to welcome him, his wife Cierra, and daughter Laiya to K-State,” said Tang when he announced the hiring. “I have known Jareem for a long time, and I always envisioned him as part of my staff when I became a head coach. He has extensive experience at nearly every level of basketball, both in college and internationally, including an incredible run at North Texas with Grant McCasland for the past five years. He fits in perfectly with the rest of the staff and I can’t wait for us to get started.”

“It’s funny that he was my assistant for 14 years in the Virgin Islands and now I finally get to be his,” Dowling said with a laugh.

Dowling is a well-respected recruiter in the basketball world, so that part of his job won’t be changing. He will also put to good use the hard-nosed work ethic that he showed on defense all those years ago at The Shore.

“Whatever it takes to win is what I’m going to do. If it means cleaning the locker rooms or taking the trash out, whatever it takes to win is my role,” Dowling said. “I came from a program at North Texas that had a well-established defensive background where we improved every year. We were No .1 in the country in defensive points allowed per game. I’ll be more involved with that side of the ball than the offensive side, but definitely, I’m going to be an all-around coach. I’ll be doing a little bit of everything. A jack of all trades and a master of none.”

It’s not that he doesn’t believe he is good at what he does. It’s that he knows there is always room to learn in the coaching profession.

“I’ve gotten to this point because the same people that helped me at the beginning of my career are the people I lean on to this day,” Dowling said. “Bill Lewit, Jerome Tang, and then Grant McCasland and Ross Hodge have meant a lot to me over the past six years.”

Lewit loves to tell the story of how he likes to call Dowling “King Midas” because almost everything he touches turns to gold.

His two-year record at Cecil as a player was 51-11, playing with nine eventual Division I players. There he won a Maryland JUCO regular-season championship and a Region XX Championship as well as making the Final Four.

Dowling has been a part of coaching staffs that have won 361 games – averaging nearly 23 wins per season in his coaching career – and advanced to the postseason on nine occasions, including the 2006 NJCAA Division II National Championship, three trips to the NIT (2013, 2014, 2022) and a memorable run to the Second Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with North Texas. He has also helped teams to 12 seasons of at least 20 wins, including three 30-win campaigns, and collected four conference titles (2014, 2020, 2021, 2022).

He’s looking forward to building on that legacy in Manhattan, Kansas.

“I’m excited for the people right now. The people have been warm and welcoming, definitely on social media. I know that’s because we haven’t played a game yet,” he chuckled. “But it’s very exciting and very welcoming. I love how small and committed the community is. It might be small in size, but the love is nationwide. We’re going to do our best to take it more from little Apple to Big Apple. I’m just excited about it. It’s a family. People are supportive and you can’t walk down the street with a K State basketball shirt on without someone saying ‘EMAW,’ which is an acronym for ‘Every Man A Wildcat.’ It’s unbelievable.”

The step from Conference USA to the Big 12 is a big one. In a Power five league that boasts the current National Champion in Kansas, there isn’t a lot of room for error. But Dowling has been climbing the ladder his entire career.

“I think it is definitely a different level and we know the respect for the conference,” Dowling said. “The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in all of America. As competitive as we are as human beings in sports or not in sports, you want to go up against the best, humbly speaking. You want to do what you have done to get to that level and not try to change who you are and what you are about even though you are under a little bit brighter lights and maybe playing on ESPN instead of ESPN+.”

Dowling remains steadfastly who he has always been. Relationships with family, coaches, players, and former teammates like Hawks Hall of Famer Tim Parham, whom he still considers a close friend, are what have driven his whole life. That doesn’t change no matter how “big time” people may think he is now.

“I’m happy for my wife to have a new beginning and enjoy this journey,” Dowling said. “I am excited for when my daughter visits for her to be able to come to one of those sold-out games with 13,500 fans screaming, to get to experience that.  I also want to say ‘thank you to every player and every coworker I have ever worked with that helped me get to this point in my career.”

For more information on Eastern Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.

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