(Editor’s Note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – In 2018, the Montana men’s tennis team advanced to the Big Sky championship match for the sixth time in program history, and for the first time since 1986 when legendary Grizzly mentor Kris Nord was not the head coach.
After Nord stepped aside in the summer of 2017 to become the head women’s golf coach at UM, longtime assistant and former player Jason Brown assumed the role of Interim Head Coach.
In his first season at the helm, the Grizzlies didn’t miss a beat, tying the record for the second-most wins in program history, going undefeated at home, and leading UM to a slew of other first-ever accomplishments.
Now Brown can add another accomplishment to his resume. Something special that Nord achieved just twice in his 36 years of coaching excellence at UM: be named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year.
On Friday, the Big Sky announced that Brown would be the recipient of its top coaching award after his first season as head coach at UM, an honor voted on by his peers around the league.
“It was a great piece of news. I’m very happy, but this is just an extension of what Kris Nord has done for our program,” said Brown.
Brown played college tennis under Nord in the 90’s and began coaching under him in 2013 – the same year the Griz advanced to the NCAA tournament as Big Sky champions for the first time in program history.
In all that time, Brown has learned just what it is that makes Montana a perennial contender in the Big Sky, as evidenced by the Griz advancing to the conference tournament for a record 28th-straight year in 2018.
“I want to do things that would make Kris proud and carry on the tradition of the program the way he would want. This is a little bit of recognition I was doing that,” said Brown.
“He is so respected in the Big Sky, I mean, so respected, and the idea that I can carry that on a little bit in my own way means a lot to me. It shows Montana is doing the right things and it feels special.”
In his first year as head coach, Brown led the Griz to a 14-6 overall record, tied for the second-most wins in program history and the second-fewest losses while going undefeated at home at 7-0.
He and the Griz exceeded expectations, finishing the year tied for second in the Big Sky standings after being picked fourth in the preseason poll.
Brown led UM to a signature win over the defending champion Idaho Vandals, who the Griz had not beat during the regular season since 2011. He also helped his squad pick up its ninth-straight win over Montana State.
He helped guide senior Victor Casadevall to the quarterfinal of the ITA Mountain Region Tournament, further than any Grizzly had ever previously advanced.
He helped guide Yannick Schmidl and Alexander Canellopoulos to an ITA national doubles ranking, something no other Grizzly had ever accomplished.
Brown helped Casadevall and Schmidl earn a place on the first-team All-Big Sky list, only the third time in program history the Griz have placed two or more players on the first team.
He also helped guide Schmidl to the top overall singles record in the league, and, along with Max Korkh<http://gogriz.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4366>, the best overall doubles record as well.
He’s done all of that and more in just one year as a head coach for the Grizzlies.
Nord was first named Big Sky Coach of the Year in 2012 when the Griz won the Big Sky regular season championship and again in 2014 when they won the conference tourney and advanced on to play Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament.
A native of Conrad, Montana, Brown played under Nord at UM from 1991-1995. He began his coaching career at the high school level in Missoula, coaching at both Missoula Big Sky and Missoula Sentinel.
The University of Montana expects to name a permanent head coach for the men’s tennis program in the summer of 2018.