Robin Selvig is a veteran of many press conferences, but he knew that Thursday’s was going to be tough to get through.
"I’m a crier, so expect it. I couldn’t get through a "Little House of the Prairie" episode when I was younger."
Selvig, the University of Montana’s outgoing women’s basketball, coach was right. It was an emotional half-hour as he explained why he’s going to retire next month after 38 remarkable years at the helm of the Lady Griz.
He and his players racked up 865 wins during that time, 36 winning seasons and 21 NCAA Tournament appearances. Selvig is retiring as one of the winningest coaches in all of college sports.
He thanked a lot of people on Thursday. His players were at the top of that list.
"Every young woman that ever put on the Lady Griz jersey and ran out on that floor [tears up] ... for 38 years, [long pause to compose himself] and not one game that I don't think they gave me all they had. There’s not one game."
According to Selvig, the best part of the job wasn’t winning as much as the shared experience of building a top-notch program.
"Something you get to share with others means so much more than something you did by yourself. I really believe that. It’s twice as rewarding when you can share it. Mine’s really special because I can share it with thousands: fans, administrators, everybody. Whatever my success has been, that’s who I share it with. That makes it really special."
If it’s so special, then why is Selvig packing it in?
The soon-to-be 64-year-old says that by the end of last season he realized the job had become a grind.
"After our 10 or 11-day road trip at the end of the season ... I was shot. Well, I got a state tournament to go to. Went to it. We got a gal and her parents coming in on an official visit four days after that. That’s my job, but I wasn’t fired up for it, and I felt guilty for not getting pumped."
Selvig arrived at UM in 1978, a few years after implementation of Title IX, the civil rights law that, among other things, broke down barriers in sports for women and girls. Selvig says while it didn’t change things overnight, and there’s progress yet to be made, it made a huge difference in the lives of his players.
"I got tremendous talented athletes that never had an opportunity before that weren’t going to waste that opportunity. That’s what I found out about women, they got the opportunity, they were not going to waste it. They weren’t taking it for granted that 'I could get a partial scholarship' or 'you’re going to actually think that I could be a good player? You’re actually going to be interested in me?'"
Selvig mentored many talented athletes in his almost four decades at UM. One of them is Krista Redpath who played for the Lady Griz from 1995 to 2000.
"He started as a coach. Someone you kept space from because obviously he’s intense. But then, it becomes a father figure, he becomes a friend. He is definitely like a second father to me. He is hands-down the closest male that I am to other than my dad and my brother. He has been there for all of my life decisions. I go to him for most things in life still and I still will."
Jimmy Carter was in the White House the last time anyone talked about hiring a new head coach for the University of Montana Lady Griz.
UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam.
"So I understand that this is a question that’s not been asked for a long time. So, the plan is to move forward quickly. I’d love to have someone in place by the first of school."
Autumn semester begins August 29 this year.
Haslam added he’d be foolish not take a hard look at current assistant coach Shannon Schweyen as a possible top candidate for the position.