Last week, the Missoulian reported that Missoula Big Sky boys’ basketball coach Bryan Ferriter has been “relieved of his duties.”
My first thought after seeing this news was to ask out loud, “Who in the heck is Bryan Ferriter?” It turns out that he is the guy we all know as Spud Ferriter, a 1990 Butte Central graduate.
People who went to high school with Spud honestly had no idea his birthname was Bryan.
The second thought was that Spud must feel so relieved. It is as if he came home from a long day of work, sat in his recliner, and Missoula Big Sky took off his shoes and handed him a cold beer.
Often when schools or teams fire a coach, they issue a statement saying that the coach was “relieved of his (or her) duties.” It sounds a lot better than saying they fired the coach.
You’ll never see a school announced that they “kicked the coach to the curb” or “canned” the coach. Rarely, if ever, will the word “fired” be used.
Most school administrators take the chicken way out and try to let themselves completely off the hook asking for the coach’s resignation.
If I ever win the Power Ball and hit Black 17 when I let my winnings ride, I will buy a professional baseball or football team. When it comes time to change coaches, you better believed he will be “fired.” If I can find harsher language, I will use it.
If I was in charge, most of the guys who coached my favorite teams over the years would have been thrown out of the club’s facilities like Ace Rothstein booted the cowboy in the movie “Casino.”
“I want you vacate this guy off the premises, and I want you to exit him off his feet and use his head to open the (explicative deleted) door.”
Using soft language is understandable from the schools and teams because, well, it just sounds better. It makes the athletic director look like a nicer person, and everybody wants to look like a nice person.
Really, who likes a person who walks around saying “You’re fired” all the time?
The softer language protects the AD more than anything because, at the end of the day, the coach has still been fired, no matter what words are used.
The language reminds me of the Great George Carlin’s routine about dying. Instead of saying “I’m old,” we’ll say things like “I’m getting older.” The language does not change your age.
“I’m getting old,” Carlin said, “and it’s OK. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country, I won’t have to die … I’ll pass away.”
We have not heard a single joke from Carlin since he “passed away” in 2008, so I’m guessing he is, indeed, dead.
The Missoula Big Sky coaching move comes after Spud’s Eagles went 0-20 during the 2017-18 season.
Clearly, all of those losses were on the coach.
While other coaches were drawing up plays for their team to make baskets, Spud was calling for air balls and turnovers. Had the school changed coaches last year, the Eagles would have probably won the Class AA State title in March.
Of course, those lass three sentences were sarcasm. A high school coach can only do so much.
Sure, some coaches are clearly better than others, but most of the time a champion is decided by the players.
What if Spud had the same roster coach John Cislo used to win the state title at Great Falls Russell? He might not have delivered Big Sky its first title since 1997, but he certainly would not have been shown the door.
The Class AA in Montana is a numbers game. The schools with more players, generally speaking, have more talented players.
Missoula Big Sky has the smallest enrollment in the Class AA, so it is not exactly a coincidence that the Eagles had the worst record.
Enrollment is not the only indicator of success, but it certainly plays a big part in it.
My third thought after reading the story about Spud’s relief was to wonder what in the heck a sports reporter was doing using the soft, dishonest language usually reserved for the people doing the firing.
Not only is it insulting to the readers, it is insulting to the coach.
After thinking about it, though, maybe the paper did use the correct language for most coaches.
Nobody in his or her right mind would coach high school basketball in the first place. Coaches make very little money, and they have to put up with knucklehead parents and delusional fans.
So, walking papers for most sane coaches would actually be a relief.
Anyone who ever saw Spud play the game, however, knows that is not the case of the former Butte Central guard. He does not need your softened words.
His team did not win a game last season, but the Eagles competed. They made close games out of a lot of games that should have been blowouts.
Spud’s Eagles played a lot like Spud played when he was part of a Butte Central team that made a Cinderella run to the 1990 Class A State championship game at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.
He was never a big scorer, but Spud was the epitome of the pesky defender. He was tireless, and he made life difficult for opposing guards night after night. He did the little things that help teams win.
Spud was always tough as nails.
The Maroons, who had a losing record in the regular season, certainly would not have won the divisional title and their first two games at state in 1990 without the likes of Sean Walsh and Ryan Murphy.
Central, which fell to Dillon in the title game, also would not have advanced that far without Spud, who definitely had the best celebration of all the Maroons following their semifinal victory over Colstrip.
Murphy hit a running 15-foot jumper as time expired to give the Maroons the Friday-night win and a berth in the state title game.
Pat Kearney was screaming on the radio, and the large Butte Central crowd entered a state of pandemonium.
Spud ran toward the student section and jumped onto the press table in front of the BC student body. He raised both hands above his heads, and stood on the table as his friends and classmates mobbed him like he was Bruce Springsteen standing on the edge of the stage.
He had the look of a guy who would never need to be relieved by a school administrator.
— Bill Foley, who is going to croak, kick the bucket or buy the farm when he dies, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74