Obviously, the dismissal of a Summit League coach is newsworthy for a Summit League website. Especially a coach that out of his 17 years on the bench 10 of which were in the Summit League. All of those 17 were at Omaha and Omaha joined the Summit League 10 years ago. Although as I started to think about how this article would go and started speaking to many around the league, your typical why the coach was dismissed, who are the likely replacements type article just didn’t seem fitting. The same theme kept going through each person that I spoke with, that Coach Derrin Hansen is “good people”. It just didn’t seem right to put together something typical.
This all led to me reaching out to Omaha asking if I can reach out to Coach Hansen’s current group of players and ask if I could get them to say a few words on behalf of Coach Hansen both as a coach and man. To the university’s credit, the reply was an immediate you are free to do whatever you please. I say to their credit because anytime you are moving on from a coach with Derrin Hansen’s coaching career, a man who really is a University of Nebraska Omaha legend, the public response to that decision is very mixed.
Now a quick paragraph on Coach Hansen’s resume. Omaha transitioned from division 2 10 years ago and Coach Hansen had an impressive 5 seasons that were 500 or better on the division 1 level. That included winning 17 games in their 2nd division 1 season, 18 games twice, and 21 games in 2018-19. It was that 18-19 season that was their most impressive in the Summit League. It included Hansen winning Summit League Coach of the year in 2019. Overall Hansen won 132 games as a division 1 head coach and 253 at Omaha. Hansen leaves as the second-winningest coach in Omaha history. There may never be a future coach that wins as many games at Omaha.
ORU Head Coach Paul Mills took time during his halftime interview to show his appreciation towards Hansen. This and similar words in the last 24 hours honestly is what sparked me in changing the direction of this article. So here are just a few of the quotes from what Mills had to say “Derrin Hansen isn’t just a good coach he’s a phenomenal coach” and “he is, I want to go on record, an unbelievable guy and an unbelievable coach”. After hearing Mills speak and others having the same consistent message. I reached out to the current Omaha squad for their thoughts on Coach Hansen both as a coach and man, and frankly, their responses were not surprising. I chose the current group for two reasons. 1 it’s the group that most recently worked with Coach Hansen, 2 they were a group that went through the 2 most challenging years Coach Hansen had at Omaha. Which to me showed that what they had to say said more about the man than just winning basketball games. After much debate on how to put the player statements into this article, I decided the best way to do it was to put the players’ words unchanged. So what follows are the tributes of Omaha players to their departed coach.
SR Wanjang Tut
Tut played 4 seasons under Hansen so I wanted to put his words first. As a reminder, Tut was only able to play in 7 games this year due to injury after starting 20 games last year.
“It saddens me that it had to come to this with everything he’s done for not only Omaha basketball but players off the court as well, he was there for me when I was on the brink of giving up and he could’ve easily stripped my scholarship when I was dealing with my hardships but fought to keep me on scholarship and I’m forever thankful for him giving me a chance to play at home. Great man even better teacher”
SR Marco Smith
Smith played two seasons with Omaha and Hansen after transferring from UMKC
“Coach Hansen gave me a chance after breaking both of my feet before coming here and not playing since my freshman year of college. He gave me another chance when no one else had faith in me and from the beginning of me coming here, he always showed me, love. Coach Hansen and his staff made sure and did everything they could to make sure I was good and my teammates were good. He always use to say it’s not about him it’s about us and I was a part of the 2 worst years of Omaha basketball and he made me love the game of basketball again. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t even be playing basketball again but he gave me hope”
JR Kyle Luedtke
Luedtke has played all 3 years of his college career with Hansen
“Being from Omaha, I first met Coach Hansen when I was in grade school, and from the moment I met him, I knew it was somebody that I would want to play for. For a kid who had no division 2 offers and few NAIA offers, Coach Hansen believed in me and gave me a chance when really nobody else did. He saw my dream of playing in my hometown and presented me with an opportunity to live that dream. Not only is Coach Hansen a great coach, he is an even better person that truly cared about his players and this program. I will never be able to repay coach Hansen for how much he has impacted and changed my life. I will always love Coach Hansen because of what he has done for me”
FR Frankie Fidler
Fidler was the lone incoming freshman and Hansen’s last recruit at Omaha
“Coach Hansen was one of the best coach’s I have ever played for. He was a great guy on and off the court and would always put a smile on your face no matter the moment. He helped me greatly during my freshman year with handling lows in the season and keeping my head level through all the hardship we had. Coach Hansen always had small stories to tell you anytime of the day, I am gonna miss him coaching me and hope him the best with whatever he decides to do in the future”.
“In my short time here at Omaha, Coach Hansen had a huge impact on my life. He welcomed me with open arms and I developed in every way I could during the time we spent together. He led by example and showed us everyday what it meant to be a good person and what hard work can get you. I’m sad we couldn’t achieve the goals we had set out on the court and I’m sad I couldn’t do more but I will forever be grateful and indebted to Coach Hansen and his staff for the time I got to spend with them”