Longtime prep basketball coach Griff Bye will be honored by friends and colleagues wearing Hawaiian shirts at this weekend's Coyote Classic in Shelby. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

SHELBY — Basketball season in northern Montana hasn’t been the same this winter without longtime coach Griff Bye roaming the courts. Bye, the former coach at Sunburst, North Star and most recently Power, passed away unexpectedly in May.

Bye was a statewide legend in the Montana prep basketball scene. Coaches and friends attending this weekend’s Coyote Classic at Shelby High School plan to honor their late colleague by wearing Hawaiian shirts on the bench. Bye was known for his trademark Hawaiian shirts during his coaching career.

Belt girls basketball coach Jeff Graham, who played against Bye’s Sunburst Refiners in high school, proposed the idea.

“Griff loved coaching so much. He really enjoyed being around kids and teaching them the game of basketball,” said Graham. “To me, the Hawaiian shirt meant that game day for him was like a day at the beach for anyone else.”

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“Griff was just someone who kept giving and giving whether you saw him yesterday or a year ago, he always took the time to visit and ask about you and your family,” said Shelby athletic director Mike White, who is also an assistant coach for the boys basketball team. “You’d never find yourself asking Griff for fashion advice, but on Friday night we all hope to a be a little more like him.”

According to Bye’s son Scotty, Griff Bye coached in 917 games at the high school level, posting a record of 424-493. A 1978 graduate of Sunburst High School, Bye began his prep coaching career at Rocky Boy before moving home to Sunburst. He turned the Refiners into consistent contenders in District 10C before moving on to stints in North Star and Power.

Thousands showed up for Bye’s memorial service in Sweet Grass in May, sharing stories and laughs about a man known as much or more for his friendship than his coaching.

“There’s only one person in the state of Montana that went by his first name and everybody knew him,” laughed Graham at the time. “That’s Griff.”

The Coyote Classic, which begins Friday and runs through Saturday evening, hosts some of the top Class B and C programs from around the state. Malta will bring its defending State B boys program up the Hi-Line, while the M-ettes finished runner-up last season. Graham’s Belt program won its second consecutive Class C girls title last year. Shelby’s boys finished third at state, and teams from Cut Bank, Missoula Loyola and Florence were state qualifiers last year.

The weekend’s schedule can be found below.

2017 Coyote Classic basketball tournament

Friday, Dec. 8

10 a.m.: Florence vs. Cut Bank girls
11:30 a.m.: Belt vs. Cut Bank boys
1 p.m.: Shelby vs. Bigfork girls
2:30 p.m.: Malta vs. Florence boys
4 p.m.: Missoula Loyola vs. Shepherd girls
6 p.m.: Missoula Loyola vs. Shepherd boys
7:30 p.m.: Malta vs. Belt girls
9 p.m.: Shelby vs. Bigfork boys

Saturday, Dec. 9

8:30 a.m.: Florence vs. Shepherd girls
10 a.m.: Malta vs. Bigfork girls
11:30 a.m.: Shepherd vs. Bigfork boys
1 p.m.: Belt vs. Florence boys
2:30 p.m.: Missoula Loyola vs. Cut Bank girls
4 p.m.: Shelby vs. Missoula Loyola boys
5:30 p.m.: Malta vs. Cut Bank boys
7 p.m.: Shelby vs. Belt girls