Getting to Know B

by Justin Long, Co-Director of Sports Information

On Mar. 13, 2004, the Amherst College men’s basketball team prepared to play Franklin & Marshall College in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Championship. Players were in the gym warming up, and coaches were in the locker room killing time. While sharing a story with the rest of the staff, assistant coach Ron Buelow got a little too animated and somehow shattered his belt buckle. He would spend the next 20 minutes figuring out how to keep his pants up while his fellow coaches laughed.

That day holds up as a priceless memory for Amherst head coach Dave Hixon ’75. It’s a perfect example of the playful attitude Buelow brought to the program in 1985. For 26 years Buelow has been Hixon’s top assistant, helping Amherst post a 516-164 record as one of the most accomplished programs in Division III.

In his younger days Buelow was a standout athlete at Ware High School in Ware, Mass. He excelled as a shooting guard and would go on to play semi-professional basketball, but baseball was his true passion. After spending one year at Worcester Junior College he transferred to Plymouth State University, where he was a starting catcher from 1965-67. The 1966 team finished with a 16-1 record and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.

Buelow graduated from Plymouth State in 1967 with a degree in physical education and began working at Ware Elementary School that fall as a physical education teacher. He held that position for 14 years, earning his master’s degree in administration in athletics and recreation from Springfield College in 1973. Buelow then spent 24 years as the physical education teacher at Ware High School, retiring in 2005. From 1967-97 he wore several coaching hats, notably winning a Western Massachusetts championship as the varsity basketball coach (1980) and a pair of Western Mass. titles as the varsity baseball coach (1990, 1991).

When he got to Amherst in 1985 it was clear that Buelow—known simply as B—was the perfect assistant for Hixon, a self-proclaimed loose cannon in his younger days. “He served as the buffer between me and the players,” Hixon says. “It was unintentionally a good-cop, bad-cop thing. He was just a nicer guy.”

Since 1985, Ron Buelow has been an integral part of the
Amherst College men's basketball program.

In his early years at Amherst Buelow doubled as the basketball program’s junior varsity coach. After practices he and Hixon would go on scouting trips, talking about basketball, relationships and life during long rides. For years they spent an inordinate amount of time together, but Hixon has been left out of scouting due to classes getting out later and games starting earlier. Buelow continues to scout, and year after year he shows the younger assistants the ropes by taking them on the road. “It’s one of the best things about coaching, and B has been the centerpiece of that,” Hixon says. “I still use his scouting reports—our kids are as prepared as any team.”

Adam Hutchinson ’93 served as an assistant at Amherst and is now the head basketball coach at Washington and Lee University. He recalls being blown away by Buelow during scouting trips. “B can watch 35 seconds of action and draw the whole thing up in one try. Most guys need to watch something five times before they realize what’s going on. I was amazed the first time I saw him do it. Fifteen years later, I still can’t do it.”

Luke Flockerzi spent four years at Amherst and is now the head coach at the University of Rochester. He has fond memories of scouting with Buelow. “I always think back to those trips. It was a great chance to learn about life. I remember B more than I remember the X’s and O’s.”

Although his scouting reports are second to none, Buelow is known best for an uncanny way of keeping things light. For years he has been issuing “B-stings” to players and coaches, something he invented one day at practice. “I’m 5-foot-9, but I posted up this big freshman and bet him he couldn’t block my shot," Buelow says. "He’d get ready to block me, and I’d pinch the back of his leg and lay the ball in. That’s how it started—it was just a way to goof around with the freshmen.”

These days the B-sting is off limits to no one. Jamie Snyder-Fair, who spent two years at Amherst and is now an assistant at Yale, recalls one B-sting from his days of coaching with Buelow. “We were watching film one day after practice, and I nodded off in the back of the room. All of a sudden, B pinches me right below my calf muscle. I jumped and nearly fell out of my chair. He always catches people at inopportune times, but because he’s such a jolly guy you can’t really do anything.”

The intangibles Buelow brings to the program go well beyond B-stings. “B is good at recognizing when a player needs confidence or help seeing the bigger picture,” Flockerzi says. “He’s an unbelievable mentor. He gives a different perspective and gets through to players when nobody else can. You can’t overstate how valuable he is to the program.”

“B has an incredible amount of patience,” adds Snyder-Fair. “He takes the time to single players out and work with them before or after practice. He always did a great job of giving extra attention to guys who didn’t necessarily play a lot so that they felt more involved. That has really helped the chemistry of teams. I learned that from him on day one and I try to apply it at Yale.”

Buelow’s basketball knowledge and experience could have led to a head coaching job, but he has stuck with Hixon to help create an amazing family atmosphere at Amherst. Hutchinson comes back to Amherst every summer to help run the Western Mass. Basketball Camp. “A big part of the reason I come back is because of the relationship between Hix and B. Whenever I talk to B, he makes me laugh. His presence makes me feel like the Amherst basketball program is a family. He’s a good coach and a good friend.”

Hixon has a treasure chest of stories about his top assistant. He has been there for some of Buelow’s best moments, including his induction into the Ware High School Hall of Fame in 1995. “We have an unbelievable relationship,” Hixon says. “Most marriages don’t last 25 years. I thought he’d be done after 25, but here we are at 26. Who knows how long it will last.”

Buelow has a lot to be proud of, from helping Amherst win a national title in 2007 to helping Hixon develop young men who have moved on to lead successful lives. He currently resides in Ware with his wife, Jean. They have two kids, Bill (42) and Jennifer (38), and four grandchildren. Jean would like to see her husband retire and spend winters in Florida. “She’s been great, allowing me to coach this long. I’ll know when my day comes—all good things must come to an end.”

When Buelow leaves Amherst, he can retire knowing that his coaching methods will live on through former players and assistants who won’t soon forget him. In the meantime, he’ll continue to help Hixon maintain the family-like atmosphere he helped create 26 years ago. Plus, you never know when a player or coach will need a nice B-sting to wake up.