One of the most successful community college coaches in the Pacific Northwest is heading home to North Dakota.
Peter Stewart, head men's basketball coach at Peninsula College and two-time NWAACC North division Coach of the Year, has accepted a position to lead the men's basketball team at Minot State University.
Stewart agreed to terms with the school early last week.
"When we first came back from overseas (in 2002) this is the position we wanted - it's home," said Stewart, a native of Parshall, N.D.
"This is where I grew up, where my wife grew up. (And it's a) chance to move into Division II."
Stewart came to Peninsula College after a number of international coaching experiences. After a rough first season (3-21), Stewart's Pirates became a perennial NWAACC North division contender, winning or sharing titles in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
Stewart's squads advanced to the NWAACC tournament six times, earning top-eight finishes four times.
Their best finishes were third-place honors in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007.
"We always measured ourselves against the best," Stewart said. "The (best part of coaching) was seeing young men develop into men."
Stewart's wife, Julie, also had a stellar run as the women Pirates' head coach in 2003-2005 and the 2008-2009 season. Her squad never finished with a sub-.500 record, won their first division championship in 2005 and advanced to the NWAACC tournament twice in her three-year tenure.
Peter Stewart said it won't be easy leaving the place they and their trio of children have called home for the past eight years.
"(Leaving) is never an easy thing," he said.
Finding the Pirates' next leader
Rick Ross, director of athletics and student programs at Peninsula College, wasn't surprised by Stewart's move.
"He's been candid with me about (applying)," Ross said. "It was a good fit for him."
Finding a successor will happen relatively quickly, Ross said, with the application deadline set for May 12. He said the athletic department officials will review those applications and start interviews the week of May 17.
"I'm hoping to make an offer before June 1," Ross said. "We want to get a great coach but (also to) reduce downtime the athletes are in a state of uncertainty."
Ross said the department received a number of applications (eight to 10) before the job was posted.
"We've got some good prospects already," he said. "I'm very optimistic we're going to bring in a high quality coach."
Ross said he expects the new coach to have a proven track record.
"I'm not expecting any surprises," he said."
Stewart leaves a legacy
Ross said many of the qualities they are looking for in a new coach they had already with Stewart, NWAACC North division Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2007.
"I really respected the discipline he brings to the program and the first-class nature," Ross said. "The kids really enjoyed playing for him, which is a great sign to me that what he's doing is right. He recruited good kids and good athletes. We were competitive and kids were good citizens. Academically they did well.
"He stressed all those areas," Ross said. "That'll be hard to replace, but we move on."
The P.C. athletic director said he met with players who are looking to return to the Pirates for the 2010-2011 season. The top quality they want in a new coach?
"A coach that would provide discipline and push them," Ross said.
That replacement will need to jump right into the recruiting process, as top prep players in the region and across the country look for a school to begin (or further) their collegiate athletic careers.
"Some of the best players don't sign until summer," Ross said. "Some of them don't sign early; they're still all planning to go to Duke. When that doesn't come through, some of those guys are still around."
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