Answering calls about writing a retraction

It takes a big man, as they say, to admit when he’s wrong.

I have never been that man, and I am not about to start being that guy any time soon. However, it has been brought to my attention that I should write a retraction for a column I wrote six weeks ago about the three open coaching positions at Butte High School.

While it might appear that I got a lot wrong in that column, I contend that I was way more right than I was wrong. Go ahead and look it up.

Still, as FOX News might say, some people are saying that I was wrong. So for that, here is my retraction. Well, sort of.

In the column six weeks ago I wrote that it was very unlikely that Butte High would be able to successfully entice a coach with a State title under his or her belt to take the wrestling or either one of the basketball jobs. Here is my exact quote:

“Luring a coach with a state championship on his résumé to town, however, is very unlikely. Butte High isn’t in the South Eastern Conference, after all. We don’t pay our teachers more than other towns, and most taxpayers want to keep it that way.”

Sure, that might look like the smoking gun to prove I was 100 percent wrong now that two-time State champion coach Maury Cook has accepted the job as the head coach of the Butte High girls’ basketball team.

Well, not so fast. A couple of paragraphs before the above quote, I said this:

“Think about it for a second. Do you really expect a successful coach to leave a position with seniority as a teacher to move to Butte and start at the bottom of the totem pole? Most of these men and women are teachers first and coaches second.”

Cook did not leave a job as a teacher to come to work for School District No. 1. He is the principal of the elementary school in Ramsay, a job that he will hold even after he takes over the Bulldogs.

Cook doesn’t have to enlist any of his buddies to help him move because he is staying in his current house.

There is no way Cook, or anybody, would have left a teacher job with tenure to be on the bottom of the seniority list in Butte. So, when it comes to the who’s right vs. who’s wrong debate on that issue, I call it a push. Though I still think I am slightly more right. Maybe it’s the Irish in me.

The other Butte High job didn’t go to a former State champion, although it went to a pretty highly-decorated coach when Butte High graduate Luke Powers accepted the position.

Who knew there was a coach from Butte doing very well in New England, North Dakota? Who even knew there was such a place called New England, North Dakota?

Well, if you look at this excerpt from the column six weeks ago, one guy who is Facebook friends with Powers did.

“Maybe you can get Butte guys like Luke Powers, who has been crushing it as head coach in New England, North Dakota, or John Mike Hollow, who has found success at several schools, most recently Helena High. Both would be a great choice as head coach of either basketball program at Butte High.”

So, if I’m going to take some well-deserved flack for not foreseeing that Maury Cook would be the next head coach of the girls’ team, I should at least get a little credit for bringing up Powers.

When it comes to wrestling, I had no idea. I was just quietly hoping Jim Street would come out of retirement again. The parents of my generation who think coaches are too tough on their children could really use a legend like Street in their lives.

Still, it’s hard not to be excited about the addition of Cory Johnston as the head coach. If Johnston is half as successful as his father Mark in Glasgow, the Bulldogs are in very, very good hands.

Mark Johnston, by the way, is one the “Jiggers” Johnstons from Butte (I’m not sure, but I think all the Johnston brothers are called “Jiggers”). Mark has a plaque in the Coaches Corner at Metals Sports Bar and Grill because of his five State titles with the Scotties.

Really, as much as we like to find fault with our school administration, it is hard to argue with them on this latest round of hires. They really hit it out of the park with all three candidates.

Sure, it can and will be argued that coaches currently working in the district should have been given a better look. But if they hired someone currently in the district, the “good ol’ boy” critics would have been out in full force.

Either way, the district was going to get criticized, whether that criticism was fair or not.

The boys’ job would not have been open in the first place had I been in charge. I would have removed the “interim” tag from Chad Jonart early in the season because I thought he did a fantastic job under some very difficult circumstances.

That, though, might not exactly be legal. It is my understanding that since Jonart was hired on an interim basis, the job would have had to be opened even if the Bulldogs won the state title.

What Powers did in New England was really impressive, and that should have Bulldog fans excited. So should thinking back to what Cook did in Anaconda.

Of course, the key to the success of these new coaches is patience. If we step back and let them do the job they were hired to do, they might return the Bulldogs to their glory days.

If not, we could be going through this whole mess again way to soon.

Unless there are some extreme circumstances, coaches should get at least four years to build a program before worrying about losing their job. Programs that change coaches a lot are programs that lose a lot.

This is true in the NFL where the Raiders and Redskins change coaches every 18 months and then wonder why they always stink. It is true in high school sports.

Jim Street didn’t win overnight. Arie Grey didn’t win a State title in his first season. Tom Landry, one of the all-time great NFL coaches, didn’t have a winning season until his seventh year with the Dallas Cowboys, and he got to draft his players.

We have to give these guys time to prove that the school district got it right this time.

If not, in four years I will offer a retraction. Well, sort of.

— Bill Foley, who is also considering retracting some of his columns about the Boston Red Sox, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at




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