In 2011 after his daughter decided to attend St. Bede, Mike Bima received a call that sent his coaching career on a new path.
“Coach [John] Bellino found out I was coaching youth football and was coaching his son,” Bima said of the longtime St. Bede football and baseball coach. “I got a call. I don’t know if he asked or told me to show up to practice in that coach Bellino way. That’s when it all started. It steamrolled from there.”
When Bill Booker took over for Bellino in baseball in 2015, Bima joined the staff of his former baseball coach at La Salle-Peru.
Three years ago when St. Bede basketball coach Brian Hanson was looking for a new sophomore coach, he targeted Bima and pestered him with text messages until he finally agreed to take the job.
“It’s a lot, but I have great family support,” Bima said. “My wife is a saint to put up with my coaching. It’s fun being around the kids. Every year I say it’s a great group, and it continues to be year after year. It keeps you young.
“Sometimes it gets to the point where I think, ‘What am I doing?’ But I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I love doing it.”
While every school year is busy as an assistant coach for three sports, the 2020-21 school year was particularly busy with basketball starting in February and overlapping with the start of football, which overlapped with the start of baseball, which wrapped up in the third week of June.
“It was a crazy, crazy year, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Bima said. “To give the kids an opportunity to play and chance to compete, that’s what it was all about this year.
“It was hectic. We had kids walking in with a football helmet and a basketball in their hands, then a few weeks later a football helmet and a baseball. Sharing athletes was the goal to give every kid an opportunity to play all the sports they like. I think we accomplished that.”
Bima said he and the other coaches worked typically six days a week with Sundays usually being off but still consisting of texts and/or calls to plan for the upcoming week.
“It was well worth it with what the kids had to go through and what they missed out on,” Bima said.
Hanson said Bima set an example for the athletes as they navigated a busy and unorthodox school year.
“It had to have been grueling on him schedule-wise going to this practice, jumping to that practice and going to games,” Hanson said. “He was in it with those players. A lot of these players were getting taxed physically and mentally. They could look at coach Bima and say, ‘He’s doing it. He’s right there with us.’
“Mike is like the Energizer Bunny. He goes and goes, and he’s on to the next thing. The kids see that. They see his enthusiasm. It’s hard to do. Not everybody can do that.”
Booker knows he can count on Bima for a variety of tasks, from scouting to fundraising.
Bima plays a key role in the Bruins’ postseason baseball scouting, getting all the information into the computer and the team’s scouting books in a day, which helped St. Bede claim a Class 1A regional championship.
“He gets things done,” Booker said. “Whenever you bring something to him, it could be a fundraising idea, it could be a program improvement idea, it could be a practice idea, it could be a scouting idea, and if he can do anything, his phrase is ‘I got it,” and he takes off and runs with it. That’s what he’s so good with in all the sports.”
Along with handling tasks such as scouting, Bima serves as a sounding board, a liaison between programs and a mentor.
“He makes you think,” Hanson said. “He’s always asking questions and bringing up ideas that you really have to pay attention to. It’s really invaluable as a head coach having a guy who is not just saying yes to what you’re doing, but he’s challenging you and really getting us better.”
As an assistant, Bima typically takes on more of a good cop role and is someone the athletes turn to for advice or can go to if they forget a piece of equipment.
“He’s just that steady right-hand man,” Eustice said. “He’s always positive. He’s always talking to the kids on the side. The kids trust him. The kids go to him with things that aren’t necessarily football, basketball or baseball things. They trust him in other phases of life. He’s just a rock.
“What he’s done for St. Bede the last five or six years is incredible, but in particular this last school year with him being there for all three sports. He’s just a very instrumental person for athletics for St. Bede. He’s a great guy. He loves being part of it. He deserves a huge thank you from everybody involved at St. Bede.”