Keep your eye on the Bahl
First alumnus head coach dishes on his path to MSU Denver and the Roadrunners’ path forward.
Basketball runs in the blood of the aptly named Bahl family. Long before Michael Bahl was named head coach of a Division II powerhouse, and well before he led the country in 3-point percentage playing for the same team, he was just a kid watching basketball all over metro Denver.
His dad, Joe, coached high school teams to the state playoffs at McNichols Sports Arena, the former home of the Denver Nuggets. That’s where Michael fell in love with the game, watching teenagers compete for championships about a mile from where he’s tried to do the same as a player and coach at MSU Denver.
As Bahl tells it, he never really had a choice when it came to basketball. As the son of a coach and the youngest of four siblings, all of whom landed college basketball scholarships, he was probably the only kid in his kindergarten class who would rather talk pick-and-rolls than Play-Doh.
Bahl played for the Roadrunners from 2003 to 2007, making the NCAA Tournament all four years and twice serving as captain. But he says he wasn’t even the best player in the family until he was 18 or 19, although there’s still some debate to this day.
“Our pickup games get really competitive. We still shoot around occasionally, and we’re all heavily involved in the game in one aspect – youth, high school or college,” Bahl says of his family.
His brother Stephen’s success at Colorado School of Mines helped Michael land at MSU Denver, which had won two national championships in three years when he arrived on campus.
“My brother was very successful at Mines, and I was about 4 inches taller, so I got recruited pretty hard,” he says. “MSU Denver was the pinnacle of basketball at the time, so I took a leap of faith with a nudge from my dad. It was the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Bahl spent seven seasons as a Division II assistant coach before being promoted to head coach at MSU Denver, and yet he says he may not even be the most accomplished basketball mind in his own house. His wife, Amy, who played college hoops for Fort Lewis and professionally in Sweden, coached Evergreen High School to its first state title in March.
Bahl calls her his secret weapon – someone who not only understands the time commitment it takes to be a coach but also has a deep understanding of the game.
“She’ll say one or two things after each game,” he says. “She’s always the voice of reason and will tell me things I don’t want to hear.”
A lifelong Coloradan, Bahl has spent a third of his life on the MSU Denver bench, 11-plus years total. As the first alumnus to coach the Roadrunners, Bahl is enjoying what he calls “the best seat in Division II basketball.” And he welcomes the high expectations from a fan base that knows him.
“This is my home. This has always been my dream job,” Bahl says. “This is the best job in the country for our level, and it’s better than 50 percent of the Division I schools. The resources we have – the support from the top of the administration down – we are set up to succeed.”
But Bahl and his Roadrunners aren’t taking any of that for granted. The team motto this year is: “Success is not owned; it is rented, and rent is due every day.” Bahl’s been paying rent at MSU Denver for a long time, and success will surely follow.