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Lady Griz’ Selvig is Big Sky Coach of the Year

Senior Kenzie De Boer is the leading scorer on an NCAA tournament team and was recently voted first-team All-Big Sky Conference, so it doesn’t happen very often that she has an off game. But she knows that if she does, it is not going to change her standing with Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig.

 “We know we can have a bad game, and he’ll still care about us and still treat us the same,” De Boer says. “That gives us a lot of confidence in how we play. Rob treats us like his daughters, and you don’t see that kind of relationship in a lot of programs.”

 Senior Alyssa Smith appreciates the way Selvig treats his players like adults and allows them to live their lives, and then adds, “Robin cares about us more than anyone outside the program will ever know. He wants the best for each and every one of us.”

 Those testimonials are not the reason Selvig was named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year Tuesday. But they do help explain why Selvig now has 20 conference coach of the year awards in his 35 seasons leading the Lady Griz, 798 wins and a program that is the envy of athletic directors everywhere.

 No, the reason Selvig won his most recent award is because 2012-13 is the season Montana got its mojo back.

 Consider: For 31 of 32 seasons, from Selvig’s first year in 1978-79 through 2009-10, Montana finished no lower than third place in first the Northwest Women’s Basketball League, then the Mountain West Conference and now the Big Sky Conference.

 But the Lady Griz slipped down the Big Sky standings to fourth in 2010-11 and to fifth last winter, and they didn’t make it out of the 2012 Big Sky Conference tournament quarterfinals, Montana’s earliest tournament exit in program history.

 Suddenly teams from Pocatello, Idaho, and Greeley, Colo., were threatening to become the Big Sky’s new alpha dogs. And then 2012-13 happened.

 Picked third in this year’s preseason coaches’ poll in a league stacked with experienced teams and returning talent, Montana went 16-4 in Big Sky games to win the regular-season title by a game over Northern Colorado, the program’s 23rd conference championship.

 It was Montana’s first regular-season championship since the 2008-09 season and gave the Lady Griz hosting rights to last week’s postseason tournament, also a first since 2008-09.

 Montana defeated No. 5 Sacramento State in the semifinals 74-53, then knocked off No. 2 Northern Colorado in the championship game 56-43 to advance to the program’s 20th NCAA tournament.

 “I think he’s very deserving (of the award),” De Boer added. “He brought us a long way from finishing fifth last year.”

 One of the strategies Selvig employed with his team in 2012-13 was to go with a playing rotation that went 10 deep. It turned out to be a key move in a grueling 20-game league schedule that stretched from the middle of December to early March.

 In a league that had a number of primetime players who averaged more than 34 minutes per game, Montana didn’t have a single player average more than 27. And down the stretch, with teams falling by the wayside, the Lady Griz won 11 of 12 games to clinch the regular-season championship.

 Nowhere were the benefits of Selvig’s approach more noticeable than in last Saturday’s title game against Northern Colorado, which was playing its third game in four days.

 Despite the magnitude of the situation, Selvig trusted his players and stuck with his rotation, while UNC had just two bench players who saw more than seven minutes of action, despite coming off a hard-fought overtime game the day before.

 “Rob had enough faith in us that our rotation went 10 players deep all season,” De Boer said. “I don’t think a lot of coaches would have trusted their players enough to do that.”

 Selvig, who is a nine-time WBCA district coach of the year, has now won 20 conference coach of the year awards. He won one while Montana was playing in the Northwest Women’s Basketball League, five while competing in the Mountain West Conference and now 14 in the Big Sky Conference.

 Selvig will be coaching his 20th NCAA tournament team Saturday when the No. 13 Lady Griz take on No. 4 Georgia in Spokane, Wash. He’ll enter that game with a career record of 798-254, a win total eclipsed by only five active NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches.

 The loyalty that Selvig’s coaching approach produces in his players has been passed down to his assistants, who give the coach the most experienced staff in the nation. All three — Annette Rocheleau, Shannon Schweyen and Trish Duce — played for the Lady Griz and have been on Selvig’s staff for nearly 70 years between them.

Rocheleau, who is in her 32nd year on Selvig’s staff, is the longest-tenured assistant women’s basketball coach in the country. Schweyen, in her 21st year, and Duce, in her 19th, rank eighth and ninth on that list.

 Montana Sports Information  –  GoGriz.com

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