Cook retires as coach of Bulldog girls

Cook retires as coach of Bulldog girls
Bulldog coach Maury Cook follows the action at the Class AA State tournament March 7, 2019 at the Butte Civic Center. (Butte Sports file photo by Shelly Davis)

By Bill Foley

Maury Cook did not resign as the head coach of the Butte High girls’ basketball team.

He retired.

Cook, 57, informed the school and the players of his decision to step down as head of the program last week. The decision came at the end of his sixth season leading the Bulldogs.

“I’m near the end of my teaching career,” Cook said Monday. “It’s not in the immediate future, but it’s coming soon. I wanted it to end when I decide when I want to be done.”

Cook focused on the word retirement because he feels he is done coaching for good this time. He is also stepping away from the program on his own and on very good terms with the school administration.

“Chuck has been unbelievably supportive of me, and I always appreciated that,” he said of Butte High activities director Chuck Merrifield.

Merrifield returned the praise, saying the Bulldogs will miss Cook.

“He did a hell of a job,” Merrifield said. “It was nice to see. It was a well-run program. You see their practices, and they were teaching. It was fun to watch.

“We’re going to miss him,” Merrifield added. “Hopefully we keep it rolling where it is at.”

The retirement closes the book on 20 years of high school coaching for Cook, including leading Anaconda to back-to Class A State titles in 2008 and 2009.

In six years with the Bulldogs, Cook did not win any state titles. He led the Bulldogs to the 2019 Class AA State tournament, which was played at the Butte Civic Center. In 2018 and 2020, Cook’s Bulldogs narrowly missed qualifying for State.

Cook led Anaconda to seven straight Southwestern A titles from 2005 through 2011. In 16 seasons as a head coach in Butte and Anaconda, Cook posted a 190-116 record. That includes a 151-34 record with the Copperheads.

A 1983 graduate of Powell County High School in Deer Lodge, Cook also coached basketball at the lower levels before joining the high school ranks in Anaconda.

“Between coaching junior high and grade school it’s been 25, 26 years being involved in athletics with young kids,” Cook said. “It’s all been good.”

After stepping away from the Anaconda program in 2011, Cook jumped at the chance to coach at Butte High four years later.

With the Bulldogs, Cook’s teams went 39-82. He took over a program that went 2-19 in during the 2014-15 season, and his varsity roster included five freshmen and no seniors in his first season. After going 2-19 in each of his first two seasons, Cook’s Bulldogs went 35-44 over his last four years.

Cook’s best season came in 2018-19. The Bulldogs went 16-7 overall. That included a 10-2 conference record.

Butte High went 8-13 in 2019-20 before going 4-11 this past season. Butte High played in the Eastern AA for the first four seasons under Cook. The Bulldogs played in the Western AA the last two.

All six years saw the Bulldogs play against some tough competition that included a bunch of future college basketball players.

“Maybe you can look at the last few years as taking a bit of a step back, but the one thing I will say is that this conference is loaded,” Cooks said. “It’s loaded with some serious collegiate talent. It was a tall task, but I think we competed well.”

Cook said the future of the program is bright, and he feels he and his assistants helped set the next head coach up for success.

“I really think they have a good chance at making nose in this conference,” he said. “That makes me happy. The coach who takes over will have a good group of kids.”

Cook would like to see more of those kids out for the program, though. One area that plagued the Bulldogs during his run — and the years leading up to it — is low numbers. The coach said he would like to see an effort to address that from the ground up, starting with the grade school program.

“I’d like to at some capacity to be a part of it, but I don’t have the time or energy to lead that,” Cook said of an effort to increase participation in girls’ basketball. “We need to focus on bringing more kids into the situation than we have at the present time.”

Butte High’s current players all received a letter from Cook thanking them for their time and hard work.

“Then we had a meeting when they turned in their uniforms,” he said. “I got to talk to them individual when they came in.”

The coach said he will miss the players, and he hopes he has left a lasting impression on each and every one of them.

“You hope that somewhere along the line you’ve made some connections,” he said. “You hope that somewhere the line something that when their adults come backs to help them.”

When Cook accepted the job in April of 2015, he was the principal of the Ramsay Elementary School. He then took a job as a counselor at Butte High before settling on his current job at East Middle School, where he works as a counselor.

Stepping away from the Bulldog basketball program now will be hard, Cook said, because his players. The move, though will allow him to spend more time with his wife, Karen. The two married in 2018.

“You’ve kind of got to take the emotion out of it, which is really, really difficult,” he said. “You have to do what is best for your family and what is best for your program. We just decided it was time. It’s just one of those things.”

Cook said he would like the next coach to be one of his assistants. This past season, Bob Olson, Steve Shahan, Josh Keltz and Jacqueline (Verlanic) Paffhausen assisted Cook. All but Olson are teachers.

“I really think we have some quality people in our program,” Cook said. “I’d be really happy if someone in the program would take over and continue what we were building.”

Merrifield said the school will start advertising the job opening in April. 1 comment



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1 Comment

  • Robert Olson
    March 15, 2021, 8:08 pm

    Really enjoy you as a coach ,as teachers and as Freind . Always enjoyed visiting with you .Best in the future

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