Former Bulldog coach moving to Miles City

Former Bulldog coach moving to Miles City
Butte High coach Luke Powers watches action during a game Dec. 18, 2018 at the Butte Civic Center. (Butte Sports file photo)

Powers accepts job to lead Cowboys

By Bill Foley

Luke Powers is landing on his feet in Miles City.

The 2002 Butte High graduate and former Bulldog coach will be the next boys’ basketball coach at Miles City. Powers said he accepted the position Thursday.

“I’m excited to be back in basketball,” Powers said. “I’m excited to be back around kids.”

Powers, 36, coached Butte High for four seasons, ending when he resigned March 12, 2019.

His four years at the helm of the Bulldogs were not a success in terms of wins and losses. The Bulldogs went 21-62 over that stretch. That includes a 4-14 campaign during the 2018-18 season.

However, Butte High’s program grew in numbers over during the time Powers led his alma matter.

“I wish Butte would have been a fairytale, but it wasn’t,” Powers said. “My first year we cut two kids. My last year here we cut like 20. There was a lot of good things going on, but we didn’t win. We thought we were going to win, and we didn’t. That’s when things got nasty.”

“Expectations can hurt you. It was tough on our kids and it was tough on our coaches.”

The Bulldogs were also playing in the Eastern AA, which was in the midst of an insanely good stretch of talent — on the court and on the bench — during that time.

Powers pointed to a handful of star players, including RayQuan Edwards of Billings Skyview. He is now playing at Florida State University. He also mentioned Great Falls High coach Bob Howard and Great Falls Russell coach John Cislo.

“It wasn’t like we were playing against Tweedledee and Tweedledum,” he said. “We played against great competition. That makes you a better coach.”

“Bob Howard should be coaching in the NBA. There was nothing that I could do to fool him.”

In Miles City, Powers will replace Houston Finn, who stepped down after leading the Cowboys to the Northeastern A title this past season.

The 2019-20 Cowboys went 11-7 overall and 7-1 in conference. The Cowboys, however, missed out on the Class A State tournament when the four teams from the Southeastern A took the top four spots at the Eastern A Divisional tournament.

“I’m excited to be in a Class A program,” Powers said. “I think that’s going to be fun. I’m excited about coaching against Butte Central in a state tournament one day.”

Powers’ Bulldogs went 3-1 against the Maroons in the City Championship Game.

While he has not familiarized himself with the players at Miles City just yet, Powers said he is confident his teams will be successful. He said he’s been told the Cowboys have a tremendous sophomore class.

“I think we’ll be pretty competitive,” he said. “I just know that they’re pretty excited about what’s coming.”

Powers, who was part of two NAIA national championships teams at Dickinson State, began his coaching Career at New England High School in New England, North Dakota. There, he coached three years as an assistant before serving five years as head coach.

In 2015, Powers led the Tigers to the District 13 championship. His team won the Region 7 title and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 19 years. Following the season, Powers was named the Class B North Dakota State Coach of the Year and the Region 7 North Dakota Coach of the Year.

His Tigers went 87-35 in five seasons.

Powers accepted the Butte High job on April 29, 2015. He replaced Chad Jonart, who coached a year as interim coach following the departure of Terry Hauser.

He was the school’s 24th head boys’ basketball coach. Matt Luedtke became the 25th last May.

This past year, Powers found himself out of coaching. He started teaching at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge in December. He is set to return there next week after a break forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he missed the game and he missed teaching high school students.

“It was hard to be away from it,” Powers said. “I was away from all the education stuff, and that was difficult for me.”

Powers said it will be hard leaving his hometown. It was also hard for him to leave New England five years ago.

He said coaching in his hometown, where so many people knew him well, was tougher than he thought it would be. However, Powers said he has no regrets about coaching the Bulldogs.

“We did our best. Maybe I could have done better. I made mistakes, I’m sure,” Powers said. “I’m a million times better basketball coach because of my experience in Butte.”

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