State hoops: WMU basketball turns to CMU legend in filling out coaching staff

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Before he's even coached a game at Western Michigan, new head men's basketball coach Dwayne Stephens has had to replace an assistant coach, with Thomas Kelley returning to Michigan State.

Kelley's replacement will be another familiar name in state-of-Michigan basketball circles.

Western Michigan is set to announce the hiring of Chris Fowler, who comes from Northern Arizona, where he's been since 2020. Fowler, interestingly, is an alum of Western Michigan's chief rival, Central Michigan.

Fowler remains Central Michigan's career assists leader, as well as the leader in free throws attempted and free throws made. A four-year captain, Fowler remains third in career steals and sixth in career points.

He played for the Chippewas from 2012-16, twice being named first-team All-Mid-American Conference.

Chris Fowler, a Central Michigan alum, was a two-time all-conference selection.

Fowler joined the Northern Arizona staff in July 2020, after two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. There, he worked closely with Stephens, a long-time assistant under head coach Tom Izzo. With the Spartans, Fowler ran practices and scouted opponents.

He played prep ball at Detroit Country Day, leading the team to the 2010 Class B state championship.

Stephens' inaugural coaching staff also includes Jeff Rutter, who comes from Miami (Ohio), and Manny Dosanjh, who previously was a graduate assistant at Michigan State. Cowan Olinger is director of basketball operations, also coming from Miami (Ohio), and Eli Atzenhoffer is video coordinator, coming from Nevada, where he was a graduate assistant and previously had been a student manager at Michigan State.

Kelley was a holdover from the Clayton Bates and Steve Hawkins staffs, before returning to Michigan State, where he played collegiately and also had been a graduate assistant.

Giving back

One of Stephens' first big recruits is Novi guard Tray Maddox Jr., who comes from Cal-State Fullerton after starting his career at Oakland. Maddox is hosting his first local basketball camp June 22 at The Compound Athletics in Sterling Heights, and will be assisted by other Michigan-born Division I players and local coaches.

"I hope to continue having an impact during and beyond my playing career — and there's no better place to do it than Metro Detroit," Maddox said.

The camp is $75, and will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and campers get a shirt and lunch. Details on registration can be found at

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984