Former St. Vincent Pallotti basketball standout Austen Rowland played the 2003-04 season at Lehigh University when one of the assistant coaches was Dr. Brett Reed.
The two stayed in contact over the years as Rowland had a successful playing career overseas, with stops in Germany, Austria, France and Finland during a 12-year run.
Reed became the Lehigh head coach in 2007 and would occasionally check to see if Rowland was ready to begin a college coaching career.
"I had always been in contact with coach Reed about my interest in coaching when I was done playing," said Rowland, one of several Pallotti graduates who went from Laurel to play Division I ball in the early 2000s. "We would talk from time to time when they had an opening. I would tell him I was interested, but I still wanted to play."
The time for Rowland to make the transition came earlier this year, when he joined the coaching staff of Lehigh of the Patriot League as the third of three assistants.
This came after he spent part of the 2015-16 season playing in Finland and France.
The guard averaged nearly 15 points per game for a team in Finland and then almost 20 points per contest for another team there.
The 35-year-old Rowland concluded the 15-16 season after averaging 13 points and five assists for a B league in France.
"When I finished up in France I was not at the point where I wanted to retire," said Rowland, who grew up in Hyattsville. "I had a good season personally in Finland and at the end of the season in France. I was still averaging good numbers. In my mind, I was going to keep playing."
But a few things led him back to Lehigh, the preseason favorite in the Patriot League.
Rowland grew tired of the unpredictable nature of basketball in Europe – there is constant movement for many Americans without much roster security – and he was married in June of 2016.
He and his Austrian wife, Marcela, have a son, Austen Rowland Jr.
Rowland was teammates at Pallotti with several future Division I players, including Rick Smith (Marist), Kenny Whitehead (Charlotte and James Madison), Nate Green (Dayton) and David Morris (Dayton).
Whitehead, Green and Morris also played pro ball overseas, while Smith and Rowland worked together at a basketball camp this past summer.
Rowland graduated from Pallotti in 1999 and then played three seasons at the University of Delaware.
As a junior he averaged 9.8 points and more than three assists and three rebounds per game.
He transferred after that year and sat out the 2002-03 season at Lehigh.
He played his fourth and final year at Lehigh and led the team to the Patriot League title and was named an honorable mention All-American while averaging 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest.
"Austen is one of the top players in our history to have come out of our program," Reed said in a statement. "He has excelled on the court. He has been recognized as one of the top players in the history of the Patriot League. I believe his competitive excellence will give him a tremendous platform to be able to reach our student-athletes and prospective student-athletes."
Lehigh, in the first game with Rowland on the staff, began the season Nov. 11 with an 84-81 loss at Xavier, at the time ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation. Among those on hand at the game was Green, his former Pallotti teammate who lives in Ohio.
Rowland enjoyed his first victory on Nov. 20 when Lehigh (2-3) defeated Princeton, 76-67.
Lehigh (3-5) will be searching for its fourth win when they play at Mount St. Mary's on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.
Rowland was able to see much of Europe after more than a decade overseas. He enjoyed spending time in London, was able to visit Amsterdam and Milan and had a memorable vacation with his future wife and her sister and niece in Bulgaria.
Now he is living with his family just a few miles from the Lehigh campus in Allentown, Pa.
"Austin has walked the walk of our players," Reed said. "He's experienced the challenges of Lehigh and also the joys of this great institution. That will give him immediate credibility and a tremendous platform to provide guidance, mentoring and leadership."
What is his role as an assistant?
Latest Laurel Leader
"Pretty much a little bit of everything," said Rowland, who calls coaching a natural transition for him. "He expects all of us to be good at all facets of our job. One thing I bring to the table is playing professional basketball. I am fairly young; I can relate to the players. I was always a high IQ player. I knew a lot of information."