By Bill Foley
Luke Powers is coming home.
The 2002 Butte High graduate accepted the job as Butte High head boys’ basketball coach. Powers confirmed his decision to ButteSports.com on Tuesday, but asked to have the story wait until he notified the players he coached in New England, North Dakota, in person.
“It’s going to be an emotional meeting,” Powers said Tuesday. “But if it isn’t emotional, then you’re doing something wrong.”
Powers officially informed Butte School District No. 1 of his decision today. The hire is subject to approval of the school board, a move that is seen as a formality.
For the past five seasons, Powers, 31, has been the head coach of the New England High School boys’ basketball team. He was recently named the Class B North Dakota State Coach of the Year and the Region 7 North Dakota coach of the year.
Powers’ team won the 2001 District 13 championship. His team won the Region 7 title this season, advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 1996. He has posted an 87-35 record with the Tigers.
Powers said he was reluctant to leave his job in North Dakota. The opportunity and the chance to move back to Butte, though, was just too good to pass up.
“It’s Class AA. It’s as big as it gets in this neck of the woods,” Powers said. “I also wanted to come home. My family is here.”
Powers was a multi-sport athlete at Butte High school. He won the prestigious Swede Dahlberg Award for the best male athlete in 2002. He also won the Best Defensive Basketball Player Award, Most Inspirational Athlete, Most Valued Defensive Athlete and the Block B Award for receiving eight or more letters at Butte High.
After high school, Powers spent two years on the Montana Tech men’s basketball team before transferring to Dickinson State in North Dakota to run track.
All the while, he has followed his beloved Bulldogs.
When Jake Dennehy booted the game-winning 46-yard field goal to beat Bozeman in the 2012 State championship game, Powers was listening on a laptop in a bar in Dickinson.
“When he made it, I didn’t believe it,” Powers said. “Then I went crazy. Everyone thought there was a bar fight because I was jumping around and knocking over stools.”
John Thatcher coached Powers his final two years at Butte High School, and the former Bulldog coach is a big fan of the new leader of the Bulldogs.
“If his teams play half as hard as he did, they’ll be successful,” Thatcher said. “He played great defense and he played really hard. I mean hard. I thought the world of him.”
Powers said his work ethic allowed him to be a college athlete.
“I got to play varsity basketball and two years of college and it wasn’t because I was incredibly talented,” Powers said.
Powers also pointed to his former coaches like Thatcher, Chuck Merrifield, John Mike Dennehy, Chris Mouat and Curtis Smith as positive leaders who helped develop him as a player and coach.
Powers said he will run a motion offense at Butte High. The offense, he said, has some Princeton back-door philosophies, and it is easy to adjust around the talent on a given year.
“I’ve had to do it all,” Powers said. “High school coaches don’t have the liberty to recruit. You’ve got to adjust to the athletes you have.”
On defense, Powers said anything goes.
“It might sound cliché, but we’re going to teach man-to-man fundamentals,” he said. “Then we’re going to scout the other teams and do what it takes to win.”
Powers is not taking a teaching job with the coaching position. He has a degree in science and exercise from Dickinson State.
Powers takes over for Chad Jonart, who led the Bulldogs on an interim bases during the 2014-15 season. Jonart replaced Terry Hauser, who resigned because of personal reasons just before team tryouts in November.
Therese McClafferty, the human resources director for Butte School District No. 1, said the job drew seven applicants. Four of those interviewed for the job.
Jonart, Twin Bridges coach Josh Keller and Brent McConaghy, a candidate from Nevada, also interviewed. 1 comment