Basketball coaches don’t base career moves on sports columns

During the baseball playoffs in 2003, Matt Vincent and I went to a new “sports bar” in town to watch a game and write our “Rat Chat” column for the daily newspaper.

The bar, however, couldn’t pick up the baseball games because it was located in a spot of town that was unreachable by the local cable company. That seemed completely crazy since the bar was located just down the street from the cable offices.

So, Vinny and I made fun of that situation. Admittedly, we were a bit on the Richard side about the subject, and the cable company was not amused.

When the company later announced it was going to locate its corporate offices in Billings instead of Butte, we actually had a few people who blamed us, a couple of guys writing a fun column on the sports page, for Butte losing the jobs.

Of course, that was a completely ridiculous accusation. There was no way a company was going to make such a major decision based on a couple of jokes from guys writing a sports column.

If for some crazy reason it did, however, we are probably better off not having that company in town anyway. A company that made decisions based on a sports column would never last.

That wasn’t the only time I was accused of having a hugely negative impact on the local job scene. Another time came when Vinny and I had the good sense to laugh at Destination Montana and its plans to build six PGA golf courses and a bunch of casinos.

We were called “anti-Butte” because we poked fun of the “well tell you later” business model. We definitely would have fell under the “everybody” category in the “Butte vs. Everybody” T-shirts because we compared the sales pitch to the one selling the Monorail to the people of Springfield in the Simpsons.

I went nearly 12 years without another such accusation. That streak was snapped last week.

A friend of mine, who didn’t completely understand last week’s column, claims that I hurt Butte High’s chances of attracting quality coaching applicants.

Because I wrote a column advising Butte High fans not to expect Robin Selvig, Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari to apply for the Butte High basketball jobs, nobody from out of town will put in for them, he reasons.

Somehow, a column theorizing that a tenured teacher with multiple State titles under his belt in Laurel isn’t going to move to Butte to start at the bottom was translated to me saying “foreigners need not apply.”

I wrote a column to caution against expecting Bill Pilgeram, Pat Hansen or Karen Deden coming to town, and it was as if I went all Ted Cruz and advocated building a fence around the Mining City.

My friend suggested that I personally call a certain coach who is considering applying for a basketball job to let him know he will feel welcome in town.

While I really hope that coach applies for a job in Butte for many reasons, I will not be placing any calls to plead with anybody to apply for jobs in Butte because, well, that’s not my job.

I also know the coach in question well enough that he would never base his decision on relocating his family on what I have written. He’s way smarter than that.

In fact, I cannot think of any teacher or coach who would base his or her decision to move a family based on a sports column.

You would think that the coach would put way more stock in the fact that four coaches who have been hired by the school district within the last three years are no longer holding the position they were hired for.

That isn’t blaming anybody for the coaches coming and going so quickly. I am just suggesting that looks a lot worse than any column stating a fact that State champion coaches from other towns have not historically applied for jobs at Butte High.

What also looks worse is a fan/parent base that wants to fire coaches after two or three seasons. So does giving up on a young coach after one season.

Think about it for a second.

Imagine a coach talking to his or her spouse.  The coach asks, “Do you think I should put in for that job in Butte?”

“Well, the Berkeley Pit is about to overflow,” the spouse responds. “Slumlords are getting away with letting their buildings collapse, school board members are trying to micromanage the Butte High athletic department and half the town will want you fired in two years, if not sooner.

“However, Butte is full of nice people, the elementary schools are terrific, there are lots of houses available, and the cost of living is easily affordable for a teacher/coach’s salary. Also, as they say, Butte is 5 minutes from Montana.”

“I don’t know,” the coach replies. “I don’t always agree with what the guy writing an opinion column has to say. Are there any other Class AA schools with job openings?”

Every single coach who even considers applying for the Butte High jobs is much smarter than that.

A ton of great coaching candidates might want to move to Butte to coach the wrestling or basketball teams. None of those coaches, though, will be successful if they have to worry about losing their jobs if they don’t bring home a State title by their second season.

The new coach is going to need support from the players, parents, fans and administration. I wouldn’t take either job with anything less than a four-year guaranteed contract.

And if any coaches are scared away because of a sports column, we don’t want them in the first place because they’ll never last.

They might be more comfortable applying for a job with the cable company.

— Bill Foley, who isn’t working under a guaranteed contract, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at