DES MOINES, IA – The Montana Grizzlies have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year thanks to star players, such Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, and head coach Travis DeCuire.
But a few other men who stay in the shadows have played a big part in the success of the last couple of years. Montana’s assistant coaches enjoy the ride as much as anyone else.
“As a kid, you grow up and you dream about being a part of the NCAA Tournament,” said assistant Jay Flores. “So now to be here for year two, sometimes it’s hard to wrap your mind around it, to be honest with you.”
This group has stayed together for the past three years. So associate head coach Chris Cobb and assistants Flores and Rachi Wortham have settled into their roles.
“I love the fact when guys come out of a game, to be able to talk to them about what they saw, how they operate, what I see,” said Wortham.
“I try to give a lot of positive energy on the bench, try to encourage the guys,” added Flores.
Some college head coaches run their programs like dictatorships. And DeCuire does outwardly show the signs of an intense perfectionist. But his assistants praise the way he uses authority.
“I know (DeCuirse) is a really, really good coach. He was my AAU coach, so I know his track record,” said Wortham.
“It’s phenomenal to be honest with you,” added Flores about the atmosphere around the program. “Just in terms of the fact that (DeCuire) creates an environment that allows us as assistant coaches to be who we are.”
Montana has won more games these past two seasons than any other two year stretch in program history. The men in the background working every day to help make this run understand this team is special.
“I’m telling you, if you have good people that are willing to do whatever, you have a chance to succeed,” said Wortham. “But on top of that, coach DeCuire applies pressure every single day. So people understand that they’ve got to push themselves to win.”
“I feel like this group, for the most part, is able to get along really well,” said Flores. “When you have success and you’re able to enjoy it around people that you care about, I think it makes it even more fun.”
While they’re having a lot of fun, they also remain hard at work. When we asked the assistants about the upcoming matchup with Michigan, they admitted how daunting the task is ahead of them. But with all of the history the Grizzlies have already made, you get the sense the coaching staff feels this team could capture the school’s first victory in the NCAA Tournament since 2006.