BOZEMAN — Friday afternoon brought excitement and applause, emotion and nearly tears as Danny Sprinkle was introduced as the 23rd men’s basketball coach in Montana State history.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t even know what else to say. It was an exhaustive process, but a fair one and one of best things I’ve ever done in my life,” Sprinkle said as he approached the podium Friday afternoon at MSU’s Norm Asbjornson Hall.
It was an emotional introduction for Sprinkle, the former Helena High all-state standout and Montana State Bobcats Hall of Fame inductee (2006). Numerous times he paused during his speech, fighting back tears as he thanked dozens of friends and family members in attendance, including his parents, sister, aunt and uncle, and six empty chairs, four of which represented his late grandparents.
Sprinkle also gave high praise and thanks to MSU director of athletics Leon Costello for creating the opportunity to chase the dream of coaching at his alma mater.
“He believed in me. He was the first one to, just like (former MSU coach Mick) Durham was. I believe in you. I can’t wait to work for you and learn from you and grow together,” Sprinkle said of Costello. “He’s giving me a chance and I plan on doing the exact same thing with this program.”
“From the onset, Danny Sprinkle’s name emerged. When we discussed specific characteristics we wanted to see in the next head coach, Danny’s name emerged. When we discussed what this program has been at its finest, and what it can be going forward, Danny’s name emerged,” Costello said. “But make no mistake, the best part of this process is that Danny earned this opportunity with his passion for this great university, dedication and commitment to the student-athlete experience and pure coaching and recruiting ability.”
The former Big Sky Conference tournament MVP also addressed the Bobcat players, who have seen the program post a 65-92 record over the past five seasons.
“Trust me, we’re going to get everything out of you. You’re going to get pushed like you’ve never been pushed, but you’re going to be pushed in a positive way and I guarantee you’re going to respond to it,” Sprinkle said. “To the students on campus, be ready to rock. I’m telling you that. We need to get butts in Brick Breeden (Fieldhouse) again and make it the toughest atmosphere to play in in the Big Sky. That’s what we’re going to do.”
“We’re going to do it the right way, we’re going to be clean and we’re going to work our butts off. Just know, we’re going to get a staff here that’s going to win a championship. That’s our plan,” Sprinkle continued, drawing an ovation. “All of Bobcat Nation, my dad said, ‘It’s time.’ It’s time. It’s been too long. Twenty-something odd years is too long at a program like this. I told (Costello) in my interview, I’m a Steelers fan, but the standard is the standard. It’s not coming down. The standard is up here (holding his hand above his head) and we’re going to meet that every day. Trust me.”
It’s a standard Montana State hasn’t seen since Sprinkle’s freshman season, 1995-96, when the Bobcats last won the Big Sky Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
“You have to dream it before it happens. Today, trust me, I’ve dreamed this. It happens,” Sprinkle told the current Bobcat players. “When you’re cutting down those nets, you’ll come back to this moment and say, ‘Listen, I saw this happen before it even happened.’”
Sprinkle gave credit to numerous former coaches and employers, including former Montana State head coaches Mick Durham and Brad Huse. Durham was Sprinkle’s head coach and won a pair of Big Sky Conference regular-season championships in his 16 seasons at MSU (1990-2006). Huse followed in Durham’s footsteps and brought Sprinkle to MSU as an assistant coach from 2006-08.
He also made sure to mention former MSU head coach Stu Starner, who guided the Bobcats from 1983-90, and was a member of the search committee that brought Sprinkle to Bozeman. When asked about where he envisions the program in the near future, Sprinkle didn’t hold back.
“Five years from now? Cutting down the nets. That’s the standard. Every coach would say that. I can see Brick Breeden now being the toughest atmosphere in the Big Sky — people getting excited on a Thursday night when it’s snowing out, it doesn’t matter, they’re coming,” he said. “Five years from now, that’s what I vision. I vision the place packed. Early in the season, conference, it doesn’t matter. Like the football team has right now? We’re going to get that. The tailgate, in the snow with their shirts off, I don’t care. They can do whatever they want to do. I’ll pay for it. That’s where I envision the program.”