With the OVC Basketball Tournaments starting this week, our Student-Athlete Alumni Spotlight profile is Belmont Basketball Legend and Hall of Famer, Joe Behling.
Joe, who played for the Bruins from 1987-1990, is arguably the greatest player in Belmont history. Behling became the first Belmont student-athlete to be named NAIA All-American three times (1988, 1989, 1990). In 1989, Behling was named NAIA National Player of the Year, as he scored an astonishing 1,071 points - including a program-record 58 points against Lipscomb on March 4, 1989 in leading Belmont to its first NAIA National Tournament. He is the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,823 points and his 31.5 points per game scoring average in 1989 may never be approached. In April 1990, Behling had his No. 54 retired, one of only two Belmont Basketball jerseys ever retired. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003.
Joe recently spoke with BelmontBruins.com about his career, his relationship with Coach Byrd, and his present role as an educator in Nashville.
Why did you choose Belmont?
Belmont kind of chose me. My mother worked in the records office. I only played one year of high school basketball so when Coach Purdy knew I would get free tuition anyway, so he asked me to come for a workout. After the workout (which was pretty unimpressive), he said he was going to redshirt me so I could have a chance to develop (I needed that extra year desperately!) so I basically came as a bargain!
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
The friends I made while at Belmont are the most valuable thing I take away from that experience. My teammates were incredible and we were and still are a very tight group: Scott Speedy, Scott Corley, Tim Bell, Greg Thurman, Ashley Duncan, Shad Smith, Mike Smalling, Butch Steele, Calvin Peters and Marty Jones. These are the guys I stay in close contact with and they are by far the reason I hold those memories so close to my heart. They helped to make me who I am today and I will be forever grateful.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont and how?
Coach Rick Byrd. He is not only a fantastic coach, but he was also a strong father figure for me when I desperately needed one. He cared not only how we played but he also made an effort to communicate to us the importance of representing your family, your school, your team well on AND OFF the court. To this day I try to instill those same ideas that he conveyed to us to my own children. He has been a very powerful influence in my life and continues to teach these valuable lessons to a myriad of student athletes.
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Belmont?
I think I learned the importance of responsibility, trust, friendship, empathy and sportsmanship and hard work during my years at Belmont. These years helped form who I am to this day and I am forever indebted to the people there including teammates, coaches, administration and all the professors who had a profound impact on my life. They all helped to provide a solid foundation to which I've been able to build my life upon. I owe all of them a great deal.
What advice would you give to current members of the basketball team?
Listen to your current coach very carefully, he knows what he's talking about. Don't just listen to him coaching basketball either. He would tell you to represent yourself in a way that would make all the people who love and care for you proud. It's not all about just how you play but what kind of person you are and what type of person you truly want to become.
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
Dr. Bob Byrd was a real character (Old and New Testament) and Bill Bandy was not only a great teacher but also became a close friend.
Where do you live now?
I live in Bellevue, a suburb of Nashville.
What is your occupation?
I work for Metro Nashville Public Schools. I am an instructional coach at an inner city elementary school here in Nashville (Robert Churchwell). I help mentor teachers and basically facilitate the process of lesson planning and effective instruction. I also help to support teachers by modeling lessons and giving thoughtful feedback to them about their lessons. I've been in education twenty years now and absolutely love what I do. (I love the little people!)
Tell us about your family.
I have two wonderful children who represent THEIR family extremely well (Thanks, Coach Byrd). They are the light of my life and I am so proud of who they are. I have been able to teach them what I learned about life through the people I interacted with at Belmont.
If you are a former Belmont student-athlete and want to participate in this series, please contact John Langdon at email@example.com.