The Winner

Winning on the scoreboard is important, however so are triumphs of the heart, mind, and effort. Winning these inner triumphs involve overcoming odds, improving over time, and reaching ones full potential. Such victories over self-doubt, fear, failure, and ego are often the precursor and prerequisite of triumph on the court.

Coaches play a huge part in helping athletes and teams discover a deeper, perhaps more fulfilling, aspect of victory, by showing them that there are many ways to achieve, by winning on and off the court.

My players and teams understand that compassion is a part of the risk taking equation; COURAGE TO RISK + COMPASSION = SUCCESS. Thus, a traditional victory is often short-lived, where an outstanding performance will last a life time.

LIFE IS MY CLASSROOM

  • Olympic Torch Run

    Blue Devil assistant participates in Olympic torch run

    Survivor... UW-Stout men's hoops assistant Eric Gardow defeats cancer, helps another man overcome the disease
    By Paul J. Cruz, Dunn County News Sports Reporter

    MENOMONIE - Although Eric Gardow and Garrett Stine received the same piece of medical news in different decades, their immediate emotions mirror one another: each felt a fear that words cannot effectively describe.
    Gardow, in 1990, and Stine, in 2000, were both diagnosed with testicular cancer, the most common form of cancer among men ages 19-45, and both searched for strong souls to carry them through the unfathomable trials they would subsequently endure en route to successfully defeating the disease.
    For Gardow those souls were, initially, himself, and, later, his wife Brooke Shaw-Gardow.
    For Stine, they were, initially, his father, who had himself battled through a bout with testicular cancer, and, later, Gardow.
    Together, their stories produce drama that could reduce even the toughest of souls to tears.
    Chemotherapy. A glorious return to athletics. A marriage. The beginning of a life-long friendship. An Olympic experience. Enough electricity to send goosebumps through any body.
    "You don't have many thoughts," said Gardow, now in his second year as a UW-Stout assistant men's basketball coach, on being diagnosed with cancer. "You're mostly just shocked and scared -- afraid of the unknown, I guess.
    "I went from being 20 years old, healthy and playing basketball to not knowing when I was going to die."
    A tough pill for a confident, athletic young man to swallow during a period in life when many individuals consider themselves invincible.
    Gardow had already exhibited his strength and valor on the basketball court.
    Before he graduated from Eau Claire North in 1986, Gardow led the Huskies to an appearance in the WIAA state tournament and shattered three glass backboards, including one at the Menomonie High School gym during a Big Rivers Conference title game.
    And he had proven he could play with the NCAA Division III big boys, as a member of the 1986-87 UW-Stevens Point squad and the 1988-89 UW-Eau Claire contingent.
    Now, he needed to use those attributes to counter cancer in the arena of life.
    But it wasn't as easy a task for Gardow as looking smooth on the hardwood.
    During his first round with cancer, for which each was given a 50 percent chance of victory, Gardow had one testicle removed and received extensive chemotherapy.
    Gardow pulled ahead on the scoreboard, as the cancer went into remission.
    But the resilient opponent cancer often is, it returned 18 months later.
    This time, cancer had a 90 percent chance of winning.
    Gardow, however, a fierce competitor in basketball, stepped up to the competition.
    He sacrificed his last testicle, underwent additional chemotherapy, went through a lymph-node disection and still more chemotherapy.
    Gardow's received his final treatment in 1994, but did not obtain a clean bill of health until 1998.
    During that time, as he did during the lowest times during his long battle with cancer, dreamed a lot about basketball.
    "It was my release," Gardow said. "I remembered the good times in high school and thought about how I'd give anything to play again.
    "I didn't think much about the future, because I didn't think there was one. I tried not to let things bother me, but I kept a lot of things inside."
    Despite his constant dreams, Gardow didn't truly believe he could realize them because, although he had defeated it, the long bout with cancer had managed to discourage the once fearless basketball warrior.
    Enter Brooke Shaw.
    Shaw, who had known Gardow since his days at Eau Claire North, was quite an athlete herself, having played in an NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Final Four in Eau Claire as a member of the 1993-94 Blugold squad skippered by Lisa Stone.
    Although Shaw and UW-EC settled for third after falling to Washington (Mo.) University in the semifinals, the former still knew the definition of success -- and she dedicated herself to helping Gardow to succeed, for his personal well-being.
    After Shaw and Gardow started dating in 1998, Gardow returned to UW-EC to complete his degree in special education.
    Since Gardow still had two years of collegiate athletic eligibility, Blugold men's hoops coach Terry Gibbons encouraged the former Husky standout to use them up.
    Gardow was extremely out of shape . . . but he loved basketball.
    So, with much help from Shaw, Gardow adjusted his diet and developed a strength and conditioning routine.
    Much easier than fighting cancer. And much easier with a companion.
    Gardow returned to competitive basketball during the 1998-99 season and embarked on a two-year athletic journey usually reserved for dreams.
    "Words cannot explain how it was to take the court again after all the work and pain," Gardow said. "To have something that good that meant so much to me come back is hard for me to describe."
    Gardow and Shaw tied the knot on Nov. 26, 1999, then Eric equalled his wife's accomplishment of playing in a Final Four.
    In 1999-2000, Gardow and the Blugolds enjoyed a fantastic ride that did not end until the Division III championship game, where they fell 79-74 to Calvin College.
    "To finish my career in the championship game was the culmination of everything I'd worked for since 1988 and everything I'd dreamed about when I thought I was dying," Gardow said.
    Gardow's dream game, however, came two games before facing Calvin.
    In UW-EC's 60-58 defeat of WIAC rival UW-Stevens Point in the Elite Eight, Gardow played a key role in one of the biggest plays in Blugold men's basketball history.
    After helping the Blugolds erase a 17-point second-half deficit by shutting down the Pointers' All-America post player Brandt Bailey, Gardow drained a shot to put UW-EC up by one late in the game.
    Point took the lead with 2.4 seconds to go, then came the history-making sequence.
    Gardow took a full-court inbounds pass, then dished the rock to Sherm Carstensen, who released the game-winning 3-pointer just before time elapsed.
    Following graduation, Gardow accepted his current job at UW-Stout.
    Toward the end of his first season with the Blue Devils, Gardow was introduced to Stine, at the time a senior at Merrill High School.
    He visited the Stine's residence in January of 2001 and counseled Garrett over the phone frequently thereafter.
    "It was the right thing to do," Gardow said. "I wanted to be there for whatever he needed me to do."
    Stine received his final treatment around Thanksgiving of 2001 and, although he still needs to go in every three months for checkups (as Gardow does yearly), he will be eternally grateful to Gardow.
    "He helped me a lot," Stine said. "He knew what I was going through. He knew how I was feeling and what to say. That was bigger than anything else."
    Stine decided to give Gardow a big thanks. He nominated the former to be an honorary Olympic torchbearer for the flame's trip through Kenosha on Jan. 5.
    "I didn't expect it," Gardow said. "Him doing that for me makes me think I still owe him. I'll continue to be there for him if he needs me and to just be his friend."
    Prior to bearing the torch, the 15 runners boarded a bus that took them to downtown Kenosha and, for 45 minutes, they took turns sharing their stories.
    "Wow," Gardow said. "That was a tear-jerker. All of them were emotional and inspirational." Gardow was the first runner off the bus for his one-quarter mile leg.
    Helicopters over his head. Support runners on either side. People screaming and clapping.
    "It was amazing," Gardow said. "It was like I was a superhero or something. My whole body just got warm.
    "It was so positive and electric. Thinking of cancer didn't enter my mind. The Olympics are not just about the U.S. or about athletics. They're about the whole world and life. To be a part of life and so many things was the most gratifying feeling."
    Gardow returned to Menomonie Saturday evening a little late for the Blue Devils WIAC 73-68 overtime loss to WIAC foe UW-0shkosh, a game for which Garrett served as an honorary captain for Stout.
    Gardow and Stine, if everything goes right, have put cancer behind them and have bright futures in front of them.
    Stine is furthering his schooling Western Michigan.
    Gardow, who is residing in Eau Claire with Brooke and their son, EJ, is enjoying his position on the Blue Devils' staff.
    "UW-Stout and the people of Menomonie have been just great to me and my family since I've been here," Gardow said.
    And, next month, using Eric's sperm that has been frozen since 1990, Brooke will become pregnant through invitro fertilization.
    Gardow and Stine have different life stories, but their one common thread has fostered a similar feeling toward one another: life-long respect.
    It's justified in both cases.

  • Beyond the Court
  • MS in Education-Thesis
  • Humanitarian

    In 2007, Coach E sponsored the Kenyan Women’s National Basketball Team and delivered two sets of uniforms to the Kenya Basketball Federation. This allowed them to compete with pride and confidence as they prepared for their seasonal competition in Africa.

  • Player Conduct

    Gogebic Community College Men's Basketball Code of Conduct

    Coach E designed, developed, and wrote a campus policy at Gogebic Community College related to conduct of student athletes. This was a first ever campus policy implemented specifically for basketball players with expectations of responsibility and accountability. This policy is still enforced today.

    GCC men’s basketball program is one in which there is demonstrated respect for college and team policies. Participating in intercollegiate sports is a privilege granted to selected individuals chosen on the basis of athletic promise and character consistent with the goals of the college and team. Accordingly, we expect all individuals associated with our programs to strive for excellence in all phases of their endeavors, and to conduct themselves at all times in a manner befitting "ambassadors" of the college. It is essential that they demonstrate sound moral and ethical judgment in their personal conduct so that each brings credit to the college and the team. Student-athletes must be aware of the image they are creating and that the impression they make on fellow students, the college, and the community is a positive one.

    The coach is responsible for the total conduct of the coach's sport program within the limits of authority defined by the philosophy, goals, policies, and procedures of the college, as well as the rules of the NJCAA.

    All team policies established by the coaches are in the best interest of the student-athlete and will be enforced without prejudice. All rules of training, curfew, or conduct established by the coach will be given to each team member in writing prior to the season or at the time they are established. A copy of these rules is also sent to the Athletics Director and Dean of Student Services. All rules shall be clearly stated.

    In consultation with the Athletics Director, Dean of Student Services, and/or the college president, the individual head coach, have the authority to place a more stringent sanction on the student-athlete.

  • Super Six Athlete
  • NCAA Championship
  • USA Today