Expectations were always high for Steve Stosich teams because he preached good performance to be the constant and demanded such from himself.
Stosich coached a lot of teams and a lot of Butte champions in a 44-year career that ended Wednesday when he announced he was retiring as Butte High’s head girls’ softball coach. He said he informed Butte High activities director Chuck Merrifield of his decision Wednesday.
“I’ve had enough years,” Stosich, 66, said. “I probably coached softball four or five years longer than I wxpected to. All nine years were great. I enjoyed them and I enjoyed coaching the players, but it’s time to move on.
“It was a hard decision, but I made it and I’m happy with it.”
The icing on the career cake for Stosich, the last nine years when he was the softball coach, were only part of his life’s work mentoring young athletes. He coached on football, wrestling and track staffs in addition to his having his successful tenure heading the softball program.
As the head softball coach, Stosich compiled a record of 125 wins and 78 losses, having won a state Class AA championship in 2011. His Bulldog teams reached the state Class AA tournament seven of the nine years. They finished third four times and fourth once in addition to capturing the 2011 state title. The Butte High teams enjoyed successful tournament runs despite the tourney never having been played in Butte during Stosich’s tenure.
The program was successful in developing players as the junior varsity squad posted a 103-52 mark over the nine years.
Stosich’s softball teams won two conference championships, placed second once, third twice and fourth three times, never finishing the regular season lower than fourth in league play. The program produced 22 Class AA All-State first-team honorees. The list includes pitcher Jaimee Paffhausen, who was the Gatorade Softball Player of the Year for Montana in 2011, the only such honoree in Butte High softball history.
“I think that speaks for itself,” Stosich said of the post-season honors as related to program development. “Especially, when coaches select the (All-State) players.”
Through being a successful coach, Stosich holds the Butte Sports Hall of Fame record for most induction plaques with 14, and more are expected to come as some of the championship teams, including the softball one, have not yet been brought into the shrine.
Stosich was an assistant coach for five state championship football teams — two at Class AA Butte High and three at Class A Butte Central — and for 13 state Class AA wrestling teams, all at Butte High. He coached four state champion track athletes. Stosich’s specialty as a track coach was the high jump and two of his pupils — Randy Miller and Jasson McNallie — attained heights of 7 feet in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively.
Stosich quickly pointed out, too, that the coaches he served under in winning state titles are local legends, too. He worked for Ron “Swede” Kenison in football at Butte Central, Jon McElroy in football at Butte High, Jim Street in Butte High wrestling and Charlie Merrifield in Butte HIgh boys’ track.
He credited his softball coaching assistants for much of the success the Bulldog teams achieved during the past nine years.
Four years as an American Softball Association summer program coach led Stosich to taking over the Butte High program in 2006. He began his coaching career as head of the Butte Central wrestling program, which he directed 1970-75.
Stosich graduated in 1965 from Butte Central and was a standout in football, basketball, track and American Legion baseball during his high school years. He went on to play football fand wrestle or Montana State where his teammates included Street and McElroy as well as future college coaching great Dennis Erickson and kicker Jan Stenerud, who became an NFL Hall of Fame member.
Though Stosich did not wrestle in high school, he was talked into trying out for the Bobcat team b his roommate, Street, after faring well in a campus intramural tournament.
Srosich graduated from MSU and began his teaching career at Butte Central the next fall. He left his Butte Central positions in 1975 to become a field representative for Rep. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), serving as an aide to the future U.S. senator for two years before going back to teaching. He joined the Butte HIgh staff in 1975. He gave up teaching at the school in 2009, but continued on as softball coach.
“All of it was great,” Stosich said of his working life. “I have no regrets about coaching anybody or anything with anybody. I coached with some great coaches and I coached some great kids.”
Stosich said he took it personally to try to draw favorable light to Butte and its young people in his careers as an athlete, teacher and coach.
“Over the years in coaching, I tried to represent Butte, Butte HIgh and Butte Central, well so that people can be proud of who they are and what they accomplished through the years,” he said. “What Butte stands for, I think, is do the best you can with the best you have.”
Stosich and his wife, Mary Jo (McCarthy), brought up a family of three daughers and one son, iand said their support was most important in him being able to pursue his career.
“My family always supported my coaching,” Stosich said. “I spent more time with other people’s kids than my own when they were grouing up. Mary Jo and my kids always supported me — and still do — in allowing me to coach and supporting me in that endeavor.”
One daughter, Ali, played for him as an All-State catcher and went on to play at Eastern Oregon. Stosich’s son, Ryan, starred in American Legion baseball, played college ball and was an assistant coach for his dad through their Butte HIgh softball tenure.
So, after coaching several sports and spending several hours a day, moslty year-round, Stosich has no practices, meetings or games he has to attend.
“I’m done,” he said. “It’s been my life’s occupation, but it’s over now.”
No timetable for filling the vacancy has yet been announced by the school district.