Tommy DeSalme, the all-time winningest coach in the history of the Cowley College men’s basketball program, was recently honored by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association as the KBCA Junior College Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year.
The 2019-20 basketball season was one to remember for the Tigers. The squad captured the Jayhawk East title for the first time since the 2009-10 season, and after failing to qualify for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament for the first time since the 1956-57 season, the Tigers were one of eight teams selected to fill out the 24-team field during a selection show on March 9. However, the national tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tigers (26-6) led the nation in scoring at 109.8 points per game. DeSalme was voted the Jayhawk East Coach of the Year.
“All of these awards are because we had a good team,” DeSalme said. “It’s a credit to our assistant coach Eric (Nitsche), the players, the fan base and the administration. This is a great honor and it means a lot to me because I think we have some of the best junior college coaches in the nation in the state of Kansas.”
DeSalme has guided the Tigers to a 215-138 record in 11 years.
“He is quite deserving of this recognition,” Cowley athletic director Shane Larson said. “I believe what sets Tommy apart from his peers is his ability to coach the team concept to his athlete and get them to buy into the team first mentality. Many coaches talk about this concept, but few are as effective as Coach DeSalme. His program is a great environment for young men to learn to work together towards a common goal.”
Prior to taking over at Cowley, DeSalme spent the previous two seasons at Independence Community College, where he led the Pirates to an 45-19 overall record, 29-7 in the Jayhawk East.
During DeSalme’s first season coaching the Pirates, he led them to a 26-6 overall record, a No. 16 national ranking, a second-place conference finish and a 21-game winning streak, the longest in Independence history.
DeSalme also had successful coaching stints at Kansas Wesleyan University, Sterling College and Southeastern Oklahoma State University. His overall coaching record stands at 346-222.
DeSalme completed just one season at Kansas Wesleyan, but led the Coyotes to a 28-4 record, KCAC conference and postseason titles, a No. 6 national ranking, a 19-game winning streak and a trip to the second round of the NAIA National Tournament. The 28 victories set a school record. The Coyotes also enjoyed a 17-1 conference mark, an all-time best in a 10-team KCAC conference race.
Under DeSalme the Coyotes led the nation in defensive points per game and were third in the nation in steals. He was voted KCAC Coach of the Year.
DeSalme spent five seasons at Sterling College, where he turned around a program that consistently finished near the bottom of the KCAC standings to a contender for the KCAC title in each of his five seasons.
DeSalme left Sterling with an 84-67 overall record, 60-30 in KCAC regular-season play. Sterling finished second place in the KCAC for four consecutive seasons, and earned a berth to the NAIA Division II National Tournament two times in a three-year span (2004 and 2006).
DeSalme led the Warriors to a KCAC Conference Tournament title in 2004 that allowed Sterling to advance to the school’s first-ever national tournament appearance. Under DeSalme’s leadership, Sterling twice tied the school record for most victories in a season with 18 in 2002 and 2005.
DeSalme was also the director of the Warrior Athletic Association at Sterling. Under DeSalme’s direction, the WAA started an athletic booster club with more than 120 members in four levels on membership. He was also responsible for raising more than $5,000 to start Sterling On-line Radio for broadcasts of games, as well as coaches shows and other campus events.
Prior to Sterling, DeSalme was an assistant coach at SOSU, where he was responsible for recruiting as well as eligibility and academic progress. While at SOSU, the Savage Storm captured two Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference titles in 1996 and 1997. The team also made two trips to the NAIA Division I National Championships, finishing with a No. 5 ranking in the NAIA Division I final poll in 1997 with an overall 27-4 record.
DeSalme earned his master of education degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State in 1999, after earning his bachelor’s degree in education from SOSU in 1995.
DeSalme played collegiate ball at SOSU, where he was a four-year letterwinner and a two-year starter.
A native of Bartlesville, Okla., DeSalme garnered all-state, all-region and all-district honors as a senior at Bartlesville High. As a three-year letter winner, he helped to guide Bartlesville to a pair of state titles in 1989 and 1991.