Keller one of four Carroll finalists

HELENA — Four candidates, including two with division-I experience and one with previous ties to Carroll, have emerged as the finalists to become the next head basketball coach at Carroll College, Carroll Director of Athletics Bruce Parker announced.

Emerging as finalists for the head coaching position are Michael Burns, Tim Cleary, Dr. Carson Cunningham, and Steve Keller.

Burns spent the last five seasons as the head assistant coach at The University of San Diego, a private catholic institution in the West Coast Conference. Before arriving at USD Burns led Community Colleges of Spokane in 2007-08 to a No. 1 ranking in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges and a second-place finish at the NWAACC Tournament. His team finished with a 30-2 overall record. He was named the NWAACC Coach of the Year, and the NWAACC East Region Coach of the Year.

Prior to CCS, Burns spent three seasons (2004-07) as the head coach of the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball program. His 2005-06 club led the Big Sky Conference and ranked third in NCAA Division I scoring with an average of 84.2 points per game. The team also was sixth nationally in field goal percentage (49.5%) and sixth in assists (17.7). While at EWU, Burns coached Rodney Stuckey, who went on to be selected No. 15 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons.

Burns spent the 2003-04 season as an assistant at Washington State University under Dick Bennett after spending the previous three years at EWU as an assistant coach on Ray Giacoletti’s staff. While at Washington State, he helped the team qualify for the conference Pac 12 Conference Tournament for the first time since 1990.

Under Giacoletti at EWU, Burns served as the team’s recruiting coordinator, coached perimeter players and was responsible for team defense. Eastern earned the school’s first-ever berth in the National Invitation Tournament in 2003 and first-ever NCAA Tournament berth the following season.

Cleary just finished his third season as Pacific’s head men’s basketball coach. There he continues to set the building blocks in place for the continued rebuilding and growth of the Boxer basketball program.

From 2002-2010 Cleary was the top assistant coach at Boise State University. He helped guide the Broncos to a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 as well as Sweet 16 appearance in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in 2004 and a 2009 appearance in the Collegiate Basketball Invitational (CBI) Tournament in 2009.

Cleary worked as the Broncos’ recruiting coordinator and spent time on the court working with the defense and coaching post players.  He was instrumental in recruiting and developing a number of Boise State’s prominent players, including All-WAC selections Coby Karl (now playing professionally with the Portland Trail Blazers), Mark Sanchez, Reggie Larry, Matt Nelson and Aaron Haynes.

Prior to arriving at Boise State, Cleary spent three seasons (1999-2002) as an assistant coach at UC Irvine. He helped lead the Anteaters to back-to-back NIT appearances as well as back-to-back Big West Conference regular season championships in 2001 and 2002.

Cleary’s coaching resume includes two stints as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at NCAA Division II Chico State and one season as an assistant coach at Cal Poly Pomona.

Cunningham has been the head boys’ basketball coach at Andrean High School in Merrilville, Ind., for the past five seasons. There he has won four straight sectionals and has improved there win totals for five years running. Prior to his arrival Andrean High won two games the previous season.

This past season Cunningham coached the team to the Final Four of Indiana High School Basketball’s 3A state tournament. They made the Elite Eight in 2012.  His teams have won 43 of their last 50 games and finished 2013 with a state ranking of #3.  While at Andrean Cunningham has developed five players who play, or are signed to play, at four-year universities.

Prior to his arrival at Andrean High School Cunningham spent three years playing professional basketball, two overseas and one here in the United States.  Cunningham spent his colligate days as a starting point guard and team captain at Purdue University (1997-2001) under legendary head coach Gene Keady.

Keller has been the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Montana Western for the last six years. His record there is 121-73. His teams have qualified for the NAIA National Tournament the last four years. The Bulldogs finished in the Elite 8 this past year. He had two sweet sixteen finishes as well. This past year Keller was voted the Frontier Conference Coach of the year for a second straight year.

Before going to Western, Keller was an assistant men’s coach at Carroll for three years. In his three years as an assistant, Carroll qualified for the NAIA National Tournament twice, reaching the Fab Four and Elite 8. In his nine years coaching at the college level his teams have qualified for the National Tournament six times.

Before moving into the college ranks Keller was a girls’ and boys’ high school basketball coach in Montana where his teams won six state championships and he coached in 12 state championship games. His cumulative record in high school for both girls and boys combined was 610-180.

All four finalists will have on-campus interviews before a final decision is made. The first visits will begin this week as Steve Keller will be on-campus this Monday followed by Tim Cleary on Tuesday.  There will be an open community forums with each coach at 2pm Monday and 2pm Tuesday. Members from the Helena community are encouraged to attend.

Candidates Burns and Cunningham will be on campus the following week. Times and dates have not been determined. The final decision is expected to be announced following the completion of the on-campus interviews.

— Carroll College Sports Information