By Bill Foley
Butte High’s new girls’ basketball coach is a familiar name to Bulldog fans.
Bryan Arntson was selected as the recommended candidate to be the new coach of the Bulldogs, Butte High Activities Director Chuck Merrifield confirmed Tuesday. The hiring will have to be approved by the school board on Monday, a move that is seen as a formality.
Arntson will replace Maury Cook, who retired in March following a six-year run leading the Bulldogs.
The 2001 Butte High graduate was informed of his selection after interviewing for the position on Tuesday, which just so happened to be his 38th birthday.
“I’m excited,” Arntson said. “It should be fun.”
Arntson spent the last eight seasons refereeing boys’ and girls’ high school basketball, taking a break from a run assisting both the Butte High boys’ and girls’ programs.
“I go from being the most hated guy to never missing a call from the bench,” Arntson said about losing the stripes to become a hoops coach again. “Those coaches never get things wrong.”
By the end of his run as a referee, Arntson was regarded as one of the top officials around.
“I enjoyed my time as an official,” he said. “It helped keep me around the game. I got to see the game from a different perspective.”
While Arntson said he has not put together a staff of assistants just yet, he will be able to lean on Butte High’s all-time winningest girls’ basketball coach. Arntson said his father, Jeff, will be an assistant.
“He’s going to have some influence in the program,” Bryan Arntson said of his father. “He’s a pretty good guy to lean on.”
In 10 seasons, Jeff Arntson compiled a 135-100 record. He led the Bulldogs to eight straight appearances in the Class AA State tournament before stepping down following the 2012-13 season.
Bryan Arntson, who assisted head coaches John Thatcher and Jim Konen on the boys’ program, spent the last two years of his father’s run as an assistant on the girls’ side.
He said he is hoping to continue to build on the solid foundation laid by Cook and his staff.
“I’m looking forward to putting my stamp on things,” Arntson said. “They’re headed in the right direction. I think the biggest thing is getting more interest in the program and continue to develop skill wise. We want to continue that positive environment that makes kids want to play.”
After a stellar career in multiple sports at Butte High, Arntson was a standout linebacker at Montana Western. His final year playing for coach Tommy Lee and the Bulldogs was in 2004. He graduated from the Dillon school in 2006.
Arntson, who teaches health and weights at Butte High, coached for a year at Western before joining the staff at Montana Tech and then the staff at Butte High. He has coached the last 13 seasons as an assistant for head coach Arie Grey in the Butte High football program.
After working one year as secondary coach, Arntson, who has also coached Special Olympians, has served as Butte High’s defensive coordinator for the last 12 years. His game plan that slowed down Billings Skyview’s powerful Wing-T attack in the 2012 playoffs has long been see as one of the keys to Butte High’s 2012 state championship.
“I still plan to be as committed to that as always,” Arntson said of his duties on the Bulldog football team.
However, Arntson said he might not continue to coach track for the Bulldogs in the future. The new job and a growing family could lead him to drop the spring sport.
Arntson’s wife, the former Kristi Witt, is a former multi-sport standout at Butte High. She is an assistant volleyball coach at Montana Tech. The Arntsons have two young sons, Rigley and Brooks.
Brooks, by the way, turned three months old on Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a crazy day,” Bryan Arntson said