Sonnen fulfills passion in his return to UNI

Marc+Sonnen%2C+far+left%2C+celebrates+after+upsetting+the+No.+1+Kansas+Jayhawks+in+2010.

COURTESY PHOTO/UNI Athletics

Marc Sonnen, far left, celebrates after upsetting the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks in 2010.

JACOB POTTER, Sports Editor

Marc Sonnen’s return to UNI as a video coordinator brings a flare of retro as the former Panther, an integral part of the 2009-2010 Sweet 16 team, looks to contribute to his alma mater.

“It’s pretty amazing and it’s good to be back around the guys that were coaches of me as a player and being able to learn from them in a different way,” Sonnen said.  “Being able to share the knowledge that I have with the players and being back around the fans and people is really cool and enjoyable.”

“Great to have him back with us,” head coach Ben Jacobson said.  “He was a terrific player for us and he is off to a really good start.”

Sonnen was the standard of reliability during his time at UNI as he played every single game of his career (139), which is UNI’s all-time record.  The highlight of Sonnen’s career was contributing to UNI’s upset of Kansas as a true freshman with three steals and extra effort plays like a chasedown block to hinder the Jayhawks comeback effort.

“The Sweet 16 just going there and it being my first year, going through something like that by far is going to be something that I’ll always remember,” Sonnen said.

Tight-knitted bonds made the team special like the “wolf pack” that Sonnen said consisted of himself, Matt Morrison and Tyler Lange. 

The former Panthers got a chance to be together as a group for the first time since 2010 when the team was inducted into the UNI Athletics Hall of Fame on Sep. 21.

“All of us coming back together that was definitely cool seeing everyone,” Sonnen said.  “A lot of them have families and kids now, and you remember the times that you had with them.”

“It was pretty sweet,” Sonnen said on the team’s induction.  “It was cool and we all hung out every night, got to enjoy each other’s company, kind of away from basketball too.”

The team reminisced on the great times they had together that built friendships that will last a lifetime.

“Just the overall everyday stuff, the bus rides, the hotel trips, the stuff you do before practice and hanging out,” Sonnen said.  “Those are the memories you remember more as a player.”

After his career at UNI, Sonnen took his talents overseas to play two seasons in Germany.  He then returned to his hometown of St. Paul, Minn. to train young basketball players as a member of the Minnesota School of Basketball.  Prior to returning to UNI, Sonnen spent the 2018-19 season as an assistant coach at Tartan High School, where he got his start as a player.

Sonnen returned to UNI shortly after the Hall of Fame induction to take the job as the team’s video coordinator.  His passion is to share the knowledge that he acquired over his career and to mentor the young men of UNI men’s basketball.

“I wasn’t the perfect kid growing up and mentors are what helped me stay on the right path,” Sonnen said.  “Talking about my experiences and helping them in that way.  Also, going to class and making smart decisions off the floor.  Those are things that I try to do with a lot of the players.”

Sonnen is able to help freshmen like Antwan Kimmons, who he coached at Tartan, in the transition from high school to college.

“I’m able to bring him in and talk to him once a week just asking him how life is, not always asking him just about basketball,” Sonnen said.  “I think that’s an important thing as a coach is caring about the players as people as much as you do about wanting them to be a good basketball player.”

Sonnen’s career has come full circle after playing at UNI and now having the opportunity to impact the players that follow in his footsteps.

“Why I became the player that I was was because of coaches that have helped me out and wanted me to be successful,” Sonnen said.  “So, I think being able to be that guy for somebody else definitely is a big driving force for me.”