MISSOULA — Montana’s men’s basketball season ended with 26 wins and a Big Sky Conference championship for a second straight year.
That’s made Travis DeCuire a beloved favorite of Griz fans and now, possibly, a prize for bigger programs looking for a new head coach.
DeCuire’s name continues to come up as a candidate for vacant positions, including most noticeably at Cal. In his previous stop before taking the UM job, DeCuire served as an assistant for six years under Mike Montgomery in Berkeley. Twice before he has been linked as a potential choice as head coach for the Golden Bears.
Montgomery recommended him for the job when he retired at Cal in 2014, but the Pac-12 school instead hired Cuonzo Martin from Tennessee. After three years, Martin left for Missouri. DeCuire was a rumored candidate again, but the school promoted assistant Wyking Jones. Now, after two consecutive eight-win seasons, the school has fired Jones.
The California Golden Bears SB Nation page started its list of potential candidates with DeCuire on Tuesday. Former Cal and NBA star Jason Kidd has also been linked to the job. UC Irvine’s Russell Turner and San Francisco’s Kyle Smith are other potential candidates.
Some rumors also link Washington State as a landing spot. DeCuire has just one tie to the school — his father, Nile DeCuire, was a defensive back on the Cougars’ football team — but the Seattle native has plenty of recruiting connections in his home state. The Spokesman-Review listed DeCuire as one of the most likely picks in an article listing 10 candidates for the open Cougars position, along with Boise State’s Leon Rice.
(UPDATE: According to college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, San Francisco’s Kyle Smith is expected to be named the head coach at Washington State.)
DeCuire has compiled a 109-58 record in five seasons at Montana, including a 71-21 mark in Big Sky Conference games. His Griz teams have finished first, second, fifth, first and first in the league standings. UM just experienced the most successful two-year run in school history, with back-to-back 26-win seasons.
Montana athletic director Kent Haslam clearly wants to keep DeCuire, but he knows Montana’s financial ability doesn’t put the school on the same level as Pac-12 schools like Cal and Washington State. The three-year extension DeCuire signed last season is worth about $175,000 a year. Cal’s Jones was making $1 million every season. Ernie Kent, who was recently fired at Washington State, made $1.4 million annually.
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Travis DeCuire’s tie to Washington State, where his father played college football.)