My 2015 Final Four Prediction

With Coastal Carolina punching a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, my pick for the 2015 men’s basketball national champion is penciled in. However, I still have three spots left in my Final Four. Taking full liberty to dream very big, I am going to assume that the rest of the teams I list actually make the tournament and that the Selection Committee does me a personal favor and places them all in a different region. I feel they owe me.

Coastal is not only already in the dance but they are my favorite to win it!

Coastal is not only already in the dance but they are my favorite to win it!

Well, I don’t have to assume anything about the tournament status of this second team that I predict to make the Final Four. I am talking about Gonzaga! This 2014-15 Bulldog squad is supposed to be the best in school history. This says a lot as I had the opportunity to watch a bunch of really good ones growing up in Spokane both while serving as a ball boy and as a fan. I hope this is the year Gonzaga finally gets past its own personal best of the Elite 8 and lands in the Final Four. As they will most likely garner a #2 seed they will play the #15 seed Chanticleers.

Gonzaga makes my Final Four.

Gonzaga makes my Final Four.

Do you think I would wish anything less than success for my old employer? I predict that for the first time ever a Big Sky Conference team will make the Final Four and Griz Nation will go nuts. Led by senior Jordan Gregory I am picking the Montana Grizzlies to go very deep in the tournament. Of course they must go deep in their own tournament first. The University of Montana is hosting the Big Sky Conference tourney this week and let me tell you, it is difficult for opposing teams to win in the Adams Center. I believe they will make it through and then shock the world later this month.

This is me at the 2012 NCAA Tournament when Montana played Wisconsin in Albuquerque.

This is me at the 2012 NCAA Tournament when Montana played Wisconsin in Albuquerque.

So those who know me well could probably guess that Gonzaga and Montana were givens. But my final choice? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Oregon State Beavers. When I worked at Montana, Wayne Tinkle was by far one of my favorite coaches I got to work with. Not too soon after I left for Coastal, Coach Tinkle was hired at Oregon State. What he has done this year in Corvallis is nothing short of spectacular (he inherited a completely depleted roster). Anyway, the Beavers will have to win the PAC-12 Conference tournament to make the Big Dance but with the coaching skills of Wayne Tinkle they will be able to do it. Oregon State will then out-defend and out-hustle opponents as they manage to squeak out win after win until they make it to the Final Four. Waiting for them in the other national semifinal will be the Montana Grizzlies.

Wayne Tinkle will bring the Oregon State Beavers to the promised land.

Wayne Tinkle will bring the Oregon State Beavers to the promised land.

Under the bright lights of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Gonzaga will come out slow and sluggish and Coastal will bury them with the three-ball all night long. What was supposed to be a blowout win for the Bulldogs turns into an easy victory for the Chanticleers. The #15 seed Montana Grizzlies will then battle the #11 seed Oregon State Beavers in the major storyline of the tournament. Wayne Tinkle will coach his heart out against his former team but it won’t be enough as Montana plays its best game of the tournament in front of 4,000 crazy Griz fans that made the trip to Indiana.

This is my 2015 FInal Four bracket.

This is my 2015 FInal Four bracket.

The first ever #15 seed vs. #15 seed national championship will be one for the ages. The game will go to three overtimes and will contain 53 lead changes. However, a charge that Tristian Lucas takes late in the game sends Coastal on a 5-0 run in the final minute and, just like during the FCS playoff game, the Chants beat the Griz.

My final bracket!

My final bracket!

Perhaps a little far-fetched? Maybe a little. But it is March now and anything can happen. As Dick Vitale would say, “I LOVE IT BABY!” Don’t Blink.

To Everyone at Grizzly Athletics: THANK YOU

Earlier today I walked out of the Adams Center for the final time, ending an almost five year ride with Grizzly Athletics. I like to think I left a small part of me behind. With the long hours I worked and the contributions I made I hope I left the department better than when I arrived. But this blog post is not about me (By the way, for all I know my employers could have thrown a celebration party after my car drove out of the parking lot). Rather, this post is to say thank you to the people who supported me, helped me, and listened to me. It is to show gratitude to those individuals who believed in me and let me grow. It is to recognize my co-workers and bosses who helped make me look good and who always took my best interests to heart.

First and foremost I want to thank Christie Anderson. She hired me, she believed in me, she mentored me. Without Christie I would not be where I am at today. I learned everything I know about marketing in intercollegiate athletics from her. For over a year before we got more suitable offices I sat behind Christie and observed everything she did. What an awesome learning experience! I have so many memories with Christie whether it be going on trips, working games, or doing things totally unrelated to work such as going to concerts or bowling.

Next up I want to thank Jim O’Day. My first role model in the college athletics world he treated me with so much respect and kindness. He knew about the power of social media long before many other college administrators even knew what the phrase meant and he gave me the green light to take Grizzly Athletics full throttle down the new media avenue. Two years ago on that terrible day when he had the rug pulled out from underneath him I will never forget the address he gave us at the hastily called all-staff meeting. He epitomized class and humility in a very dark moment and that will always stay with me.

I owe so much gratitude to Brynn Molloy. She came into the Marketing Director position and just kicked butt. Definitely one of the most positive people I know I had a wonderful ten months working for her. We had such a solid working relationship based on collaboration and respect. She was there for me and I was there for her. She allowed me to continue to do my thing and always took the time to tell me good job. We came in each morning on fire for Grizzly Athletics and it made for a great work environment. It is no secret why everyone loves Brynn.

I don’t think I had a bigger supporter when it came to getting me to where I wanted to be than Greg Sundberg. Besides being the best leader I know, no one took the time to help me reach my goals more than Greg. He cares so much about his employees and brings the same positivity to the office each day in the same way Brynn does. I said Jim was my first role model in college athletics; after Greg started overseeing all external communications a couple years ago he became my second. “Sunny” played a big role in getting me to where I am now.

Then there is Kent Haslam…the third person I identify as a role model of mine in intercollegiate athletics. I was so happy and relieved when he got hired as our athletic director. You would be hard pressed to find someone with greater integrity than Kent. Over the past couple years he has been a great supporter of mine. Always sending recognition my way and 100% supportive of my decision to go to Coastal Carolina I feel very fortunate that our AD cared so much about me. Grizzly Athletics is in great hands.

Thank you to our sports information staff! I had the opportunity to work very closely with our legendary SID, Dave Guffey. I earned Dave’s respect and he treated me like a son. I will miss him a lot. I also feel like I got a lot from Joel Carlson (Assistant SID). No one writes better than Joel and I had the pleasure of reading award winning material from his desk on a daily basis. I know by paying attention to his techniques and style that it made me a better writer myself. Rounding out the staff is Renee Valley who never ceased to lend a helping hand when it came to making a few more credentials or helping me find something in the archive room.

I owe big thank yous to the people who generated much of the great content that I was able to use on our new media outlets to give our fan base a great experience. Nate Michael (Griz Vision producer) is an extremely talented individual and one of the best guys I know. Todd Goodrich (University of Montana photographer) works magic with the lens and pours a lot of his time into covering athletics. Jerek Wolcott (videographer, now at Idaho State) really started the video tradition at Grizzly Athletics and was a great friend of mine.

Thank you to our genius I.T. man, Aaron Heiner. This guy gave me a new perspective on what it is like to work under pressure. He also bailed me out of numerous situations involving technology on game days. Speaking of smart people, I couldn’t have succeeded at my job without the help of Chuck Maes. That man has a computer for a brain with incredible knowledge on how every device and piece of equipment under the name of Grizzly Athletics works. . Just like with Aaron, Chuck has helped me out many times when I needed quick assistance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my office mate, Paul Hengel. Paul became a great friend of mine and provided me an example each day of what hard work is all about. No one works harder in the department or has more demanded of him than Mr. Paul. We got along great and our office arrangement couldn’t have worked out any better.

Much appreciation to Heather Alexander (business manager) who showed great patience towards me when I asked stupid questions or accidentally went away from protocol when completing a business transaction. I also am very thankful for how much she has made my transition between jobs easier. Heather, you better make good on your plans to visit Myrtle Beach during the summer of 2015!

Then there are just the people who have supported me so much during my time with Grizzly Athletics. I am talking about people like Janie Haight, Sue DeMers, Cyndi Steigers, and Celine Fisher. They have acted as moms to me and supported me since I have stepped foot in the Adams Center. I was overjoyed when my “Montana Moms” got to meet my real mom at my going-away party late last week.

I don’t want to forget about the coaches. I learned a lot about the crazy lives they live full of pressure, stress, and travel. Take it from me right here: Our “Big Three” head coaches (Robin Selvig, Wayne Tinkle, and Mick Delaney) are absolutely class acts. They are passionate for the Griz and are incredibly kind. Each one of those men took time to congratulate me when I announced that I was moving on. Special shout out to Griz softball coach Jamie Pinkerton who became a good friend of mine. I am sad that I will miss the first pitch in 2015. Also thank you to soccer head coach Mark Plakorus who always took time to talk to me and even attended my going-away party.

Finally, thank you to all the students I had the privilege of working with over the years. From our student-athletes to our Spirit Squad to our team of interns to our mascots I felt so fortunate working a job where I got to interact with young and motivated individuals on a daily basis. In the end my ultimate mission was to serve them and I felt so lucky that I was able to do just that.

The chapter is closed. I now move onto the next stage of my life at Coastal Carolina. However, I will always be indebted to the wonderful people at Grizzly Athletics who gave me my start. Please know I hold all of you in very high regard. THANK YOU. Don’t Blink.

What I Found Opening a 30 Year Old Media Guide

This morning I went to our archive room at Grizzly Athletics to find something fun for our #ThrowbackThursday Facebook feature. I opened up our file that contained men’s basketball guides dating back all the way to the 1950’s. Because of the glossy photo, scenic background, and incredibly cool/ugly warm ups I chose the publication from the 1984-85 Grizzly basketball season. But instead of just taking the photo, using the material, and then re-filing it I decided to open it up.

This is the 1984-85 Griz basketball media guide that I looked at today.

This is the 1984-85 Griz basketball media guide that I looked at today.

Talk about a history lesson! I found so many cool and interesting tidbits and images that I knew I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t share some of the content through Don’t Blink. Even if you aren’t a Griz fanatic you will surely appreciate some of the names I am about to showcase. So give me your attention because class is in session! What do you say we travel back 30 years?

Big Time Coaches

The media guide contained some big deal coaches.

The media guide contained some big deal coaches.

The first thing that jumped out to me inside the pages? Legendary coaches! Coaching Montana at the time was Mike Montgomery who was serving his seventh season as the head man. He of course went on to coach at Stanford, in the NBA, and is now the coach of California. I had to do a double take when I saw the mug of Jim Calhoun smiling at me. Unbeknownst to me he coached at Northeastern State. The Redmen (nickname since changed to Riverhawks) traveled to Missoula over December 7 and 8 in 1984 to compete in the Champion Holiday Classic. Finally Don Monson caught my eye as well. Monson coached at both Idaho and Oregon and received National Coach of the Year honors in 1982. His son is Dan Monson. The Griz played his Oregon University team in Eugene on November 29.

Krystko

Larry Krystkowiak is a Montana basketball legend.

Larry Krystkowiak is a Montana basketball legend.

Gracing lots of space in the 1984-85 media guide was Larry Krystkowiak. Cementing his spot in Montana basketball by earning the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year award three different times he managed to add to that legacy even more by leading the Griz to NCAA Tournament appearances in his two seasons as head coach. In between playing and coaching for Montana he enjoyed a long career in the NBA as a player. After his successful run coaching the Griz the Milwaukee Bucks hired him as head coach. Currently he is leading the Pac-12 Utah Utes.

Bobby Hauck as a Basketball Manager?

Bobby Hauck dutifully served as a basketball manager during the 1984-85 season.

Bobby Hauck dutifully served as a basketball manager during the 1984-85 season.

When you think of Bobby Hauck you think of a successful head football coach with his own special swagger. Would you have ever thought that he once served as a basketball manager? During the 1984-85 season he did exactly that for the Griz basketball squad. Even though he coaches football you have to think Bobby took some pointers from Mike Montgomery to use during his career.

Coach Tinkle

Wayne Tinkle during his freshman year with Montana.

Wayne Tinkle during his freshman year with Montana.

Then you have the Sexiest Coach in College Basketball himself, Wayne Tinkle. One of my favorite people in the department and a very coveted coach, I enjoyed reading Wayne’s freshman profile (back when he had dark hair). In it he cites one of his hobbies as dancing. That definitely makes sense as he has taken the Griz basketball team to three NCAA Tournaments. I love Mike Montgomery’s quote: “If he’s willing to put in the time and effort to work he could be one of the most outstanding basketball players ever in our program”……mission accomplished.

Just for the Heck of It

The 1915 Griz basketball team

The 1915 Griz basketball team

How could I not include the 1915 Griz basketball team that was included on page 32 of the media guide?

Legends in the Athletic Department

Steve Hackney, Dennis Murphy, and Dave Guffey have devoted over 100 years of service combined to Grizzly Athletics.

Steve Hackney, Dennis Murphy, and Dave Guffey have devoted over 100 years of service combined to Grizzly Athletics.

To conclude I had to pay homage to a few legends in our athletic department who I saw in the program. I have worked with all three during my stint with Grizzly Athletics although two are now retired. Up top is Steve Hackney (“Hack”), our longtime equipment manager who retired a couple years ago. To the bottom left is Dennis Murphy, the head athletic trainer for over 30 years until his retirement last year. Finally in the bottom right you got my next door office neighbor and a man I work with a lot, Mr. Dave Guffey. As Dave himself created this media guide I don’t know why he threw himself at the back of the publication on orange paper but I imagine it is just his humble nature. Guff has served as the Sports Information Director for 37 years.

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I had an enjoyable time looking through this media guide.

I had an enjoyable time looking through this media guide.

Little did I know that I would learn so much and come up with a blog topic as I entered the archive room this morning. If there is one bigger lesson that comes out of this though it is that Grizzly Athletics has a storied and rich history and I am honored to be a very tiny part of it. Don’t Blink.