MEMPHIS — It was almost surprising Ryan Bowen even knew what city he was in on Saturday night.
The former Iowa Hawkeyes basketball player is an assistant coach for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. On Wednesday, he was here in Memphis to scout the Grizzlies as they played Philadelphia. On Thursday, he was in Oklahoma City to scout Dallas as the Mavericks played the Thunder.
On Friday, Bowen was with the Nuggets as they played at Dallas. And on Saturday, he was back in Memphis when Denver lost to the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum, 81-72.
When is this man at home in Denver? “I wasn’t in December, not a whole lot,” he said.
The Nuggets played 10 of their 15 December games on the road, and 22 of their first 32 this season. January will be better.
Bowen spends more time on the road than the team, since he is one of three Nuggets coaches who rotate as advance scouts, watching the teams Denver will soon play.
“I’ll stay with the team 75 percent of the time,” he said. “I think I’ve missed seven or eight of our games so far this year.”
When Bowen is with the Nuggets, he works with players before games, and before and after practices. Ninety minutes before the game here Saturday, Bowen was on the court throwing different kinds of passes to Denver players to set them up for pull-up jumpers. At 37, he still looked like a player himself.
Bowen played 507 NBA games spread over 10 seasons between 1999 and 2009, the first five of them with the Nuggets. Before that, he had a 120-game career that made him one of the most-beloved Iowa players in the minds of Hawkeye fans. He averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in his senior season, 1997-98.
He is Iowa’s all-time career leader in steals, is fourth in blocked shots, and eighth in rebounds. He was a player who hustled, which had a lot to do with why he kept a playing job in the NBA for so long though he never averaged as much as five points per game in a season.
Bowen was in the middle of his second season as the video coordinator for Fran McCaffery’s Iowa program when the Nuggets offered him a job last December.
“I just think it was too good an opportunity to pass up,” he said, “getting in the NBA and getting the chance to work on court with the guys. Being the video coordinator at Iowa, I wasn’t able (by NCAA rules) to work with the guys. I wanted to do that while I was still somewhat young, more of a hands-on approach working with them rather than from afar.
“I do enjoy it. It’s weird that three years ago I was here playing with these guys. A lot of times I wonder ‘How in the world did I do this?’ These guys are so good. You see how strong these guys are, how talented they are, yet not too long ago I was playing at this level.”
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