A RENAISSANCE MAN
When the Sun Belt Conference
tournament begins this week, most of the attention will
be on Dennis Felton's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and
perhaps some upset-minded hopefuls like Porter Moser and
Arkansas-Little Rock, Jessie Evans and
Louisiana-Lafayette and Lou Henson and his New Mexico
All are very accomplished coaches in their own right,
but that's on the court. Off the court, few -- if any --
could match the long list of non-basketball
accomplishments of Middle Tennessee's Randy Wiel.
The former Dean Smith player and assistant, who guided
the Dutch National team in pre-Olympic competition, back
in 1992, is both a linguist and talented musician. And
that's only the beginning.
Wiel, now in his sixth season at the helm at Middle
Tennessee, speaks six languages fluently and has
mastered several musical instruments. He has even
strummed his guitar in the famous 'Storyville' nightclub
in New Orleans.
For most people, such talents would be more than enough
to occupy their leisure time, but Randy Wiel is not your
In addition to being a key member of the Dutch National
team, in the early 1980's, Wiel was part of the Dutch
swim team, competing in the 1967 Pan-American Games at
The following year he was a sprinter for the Netherlands
Antilles, in the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. And
he could have easily have added a Gold medal to his
"I competed in the 100-yard and the 220-yard dash," says
Wiel. "In Mexico City I set the Dutch National record by
running the 100 in 10.1 seconds. I actually ran it in 10
flat a couple of times, but they were wind aided runs."
Four years earlier, America's Bob Hayes became the first
sprinter to run the 100-yard dash. His 9.9-second time
was good enough for Gold. Ironically, in both the 1972
and 1976 Olympics the winning time in 100-yard dash was
"After the 1968 Olympics, I became more interested in
basketball so I turned my attention away from sprinting.
Who knows what would or could have happened if I stuck
with it for at least another four years."
He speaks English, Dutch, Spanish, French, Portuguese,
and Papiamentoe. He's an accomplished guitarist and
trumpeter. He played and coached under Dean Smith. He
played on and coached the Dutch National Team and he was
among the world's fastest sprinters at one time.
So that's more than enough for any one person, right?
Well, there's more.
Wiel was part of Dean Smith's staff at North Carolina
for seven years, which included a National Championship.
But while coach Smith can boast a long list of
thoroughbreds that helped him to win two National
titles, Wiel can saddle up with his mentor.
That's right -- Wiel has won two National Championships
with the help of his horses. But his are of a totally
different breed. His horses are of the Paso Fino
The mount of the Spanish Conquistadors, the Paso Fino is
the oldest true native breed of horse in the Western
Hemisphere. The competition is similar to the
Equestrian's dressage and this show and presentation
sport is a passion for Wiel.
"I have been riding all my life," says Wiel. "Horses are
a way of life on my native island of Curacao (Dutch
Island, 42 miles East of Aruba). People there ride
horses, not cars so it's something that is a part of
Wiel, who has even been to the drive-in movie on
horseback continued to feed his passion, long after
leaving Curacao. He studied dressage at the world famous
Vienna Riding Academy, in Austria.
And recently, his years of study, training and a
lifetime of riding helped him to capture two national
titles, riding Don Fernando (Black Stallion) and
Prodigio (White Stallion), which means prodigy in
So what does the prodigy's mentor think of his saddle
and show routine?
"Dean [Smith] prefers golf," laughs Wiel. "I kid him all
the time that it's easier to train horses then
basketball players because horses don't reason. You can
teach a player to box out, but he may still make a
mistake no matter how much you try to reinforce it. But
a horse will always follow your command."
Some of Wiel chief rivals in the sport are a 'who's who'
in the world of sports. Former stock car driver, Ernie
Ervins now devotes the better part of his time to
competing. Major League Baseball star, Ruben Rivera is
also on the circuit and so is another fellow North
Carolina Tar Heel.
"Davis Love III is really into it," says Wiel. "I see
Davis at almost every competition. When he's not
golfing, he's competing against me."
And don't think for a moment that competing against Wiel
is any easier than competing against Tiger Woods.
Nearly 500 years ago, on his second voyage from Spain,
Christopher Columbus brought a select group of mares and
stallions and settled them at Santa Domingo.
These horses were a mixture of Barb, Andalusian and
Spanish Jennet. The result of the blending of the
blending of these horses was to become known as the Paso
Fino breed - Los Caballos de Paso Fino, which translates
to 'the horse with the fine step.'
And Wiel, who presently has nine Paso Fino horses in his
stable, located at his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee,
is seemingly always one step ahead of the competition.