A tip of the hat to Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig

Sometime in the early to mid-1980s, my grandpa Bill started telling me about the greatness of University of Montana women’s basketball coach Robin Selvig.

It was early in Selvig’s remarkable UM career, which will enter its 38th year this fall. My grandpa would point out how many games the Lady Griz won each year, and he’d beam about the number of Montana girls who were doing all the winning.

My grandpa continued to follow Selvig and his Lady Griz until his death in February. It was not possible for him to hold Selvig in higher esteem. To my grandpa, Robin Selvig was Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy.

More than a decade after my grandpa opened my eyes to the great coach, I covered Selvig’s team for two seasons as the sports editor of the Montana Kaimin, the University of Montana School paper.

Many others in the athletic department at the school treated the Kaimin reporters like dirt because, well, they probably had it coming. Kaimin reporters were constantly trying to turn every little story in to the next scandal that would tear down the Grizzlies.

They were constantly dealing with the next Woodward and Bernstein.

Two coaches in particular went out of their way to treat me like a professional and to actually know my name. One was football coach Mick Dennehy because he had to. The Butte-guy bond was big enough to overcome the scandal of the week being investigated by my colleagues.

Mick was never as cordial as his predecessor, Don Read, because, well, nobody is. Still, I think I was one of two or three writers Mick even pretended to like. To me, that really said something.

The other coach was Selvig, who saw that I covered his women’s basketball team with the same importance as I did the football team. I covered his team like my grandpa would have wanted me to.

My grandpa, by the way, proudly read every one of my stories about the Lady Griz online.

Then, in March of 1997, I got to do something that I will never forget. I introduced my grandpa to Selvig.

The University of Montana was the site of a regional in the NCAA Women’s tournament, and my grandpa went to Missoula to take in the action.

I took my grandpa on a tour of the most important areas of campus — Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the Harry Adams Field House, as it was called then.

As we walked through the empty lobby of the Field House, as luck would have it, Selvig came walking out of a door.

“Coach Selvig,” I said, “I would like you to meet my grandpa. He’s your biggest fan.”

“It is an honor to meet you, sir,” my grandpa said, using his right hand to shake hands with the legendary coach and his left to tip his hat.

It was kind of like when Terrance Mann met “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

Selvig stopped for a few minutes to exchange a few words with my grandpa, who was clearly nervous to meet such an important guy. His heart was racing.

As we walked away, my grandpa laughed at himself for tipping the hat, an involuntary motion that came out of genuine respect.

My grandpa compared the experience with the time my grandma shook hands with Bobby Kennedy, and he meant it. Even when his memory was slipping in his later days, my grandpa never forgot that short conversation with Coach Selvig.

Coach Selvig’s 2014-15 Lady Griz went 24-9, winning the Big Sky Conference and earning the coach his 21st trip to the NCAA tournament. In 37 seasons, Selvig has won at least 20 games 30 times. He has 24 conference championships.

Selvig, who has an 845-275 record at UM, got to 800 wins faster than Mike Krzyzewski.

As great as he is on the court, though, Selvig is even better off it. The day he met my grandpa proved that to me.

On Friday, you can see for yourself what I mean when Selvig comes to Butte for the Grizzly Golf Tournament put on by the Butte Chapter of the Grizzly Scholarship Association.

Selvig isn’t planning to play in the tournament, as far as I know, but he will be at the tailgate/social and auction that follows the tournament at the Butte Country Club.

Cost of the tournament is $100 per golfer. That includes the tailgate dinner and auction. If you’re not a golfer, you can take in the dinner and auction for $20.

The tournament is a key fundraiser for the Grizzly Scholarship Association. Over the last five years, the Butte tournament has raised about $75,000.

That money goes to pay for scholarships and to upgrade athletic facilities at the school. So Butte Grizzlies like Keli Dennehy, Jake Dallaserra, Aschan Richards and Hailey Hoagland have benefited from that money. So will future Butte Grizzlies Dalton Daum and Danny Peoples.

So, if you’re a Griz fan, you know the tournament is well worth the money.

It will also give you the chance to rub elbows, as they say, with some Grizzly dignitaries.

Former head football coach mick Delaney will be there. He’s a guy I like to call “The Man Who Saved Grizzly Football.”

If he didn’t step in to give the school instant credibility in the middle of the biggest scandal in school history a few years ago, who knows where the program would be.

It probably wouldn’t have been in position to lure a guy like Bob Stitt, the new Griz head football coach who will also be there. The tournament just might give you the chance to ask the coach face to face what his plans are for Daum in 2015.

Men’s basketball coach Travis DeCuire, who went 20-13 and took the Grizzlies to the NIT in his first season, will also be there. So will tennis coach Kris Nord, softball coach Jamie Pinkerton, track coach Brian Schweyen, golf coach Joni Stephens, defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak and athletic director Kent Haslam.

If you get the chance, you really should stop by and meet some of the coaches. Feel free to tell them about some of the local kids they might not know about. It couldn’t possibly hurt.

If you are lucky enough to shake hands with Coach Selvig, tell him my grandpa says hi.

Tipping your hat is optional.

— Bill Foley, who tips his hat for no man, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 3 comments

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  • Marnie
    June 2, 2015, 8:45 am

    Thanks Bill .. The weather looks good. We have room for more golfers. 7 Head Coaches plus Mick & Mick doesn’t get any better for GRIZ fans!

  • Don Petritz
    June 2, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Foles thanks for writing a great article on a current Griz legend and also the Griz golf tourney. As Marnie said we have room for more golfers and as they say the more the merrier. Not many golf tournaments can say they have two former head football coaches and the current one golfing.
    It will be a great Griz day!
    Thanks again Foles.

  • Richard Garlish
    June 6, 2015, 12:24 pm

    Billy Foley is a credit to Grampa Bill.


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