DICKINSON, N.D. — Derek Selvig landed his first head coaching job when Dickinson State announced his hiring last week.
But that isn’t even the most exciting part of the move to western North Dakota for the eastern Montana native. Selvig, who spent the past four years as an assistant coach with the Montana Tech men’s basketball program, now gets to begin his life with his fiancé.
“We’ve been actually living separately. She’s been living in Missoula, and I’ve been in Butte. Now we’re finally going to be able to pretty much start our life together in North Dakota. We couldn’t be more excited for that,” Selvig said.
The couple will get settled in Dickinson, where Selvig will take over a men’s basketball team that went 10-17 last season. Josh Vaughan stepped down as the Blue Hawks’ coach in late July after three seasons, leaving Dickinson State athletic director Pete Stanton and the search committee an accelerated timeline to find his replacement.
“We were excited about Derek from the beginning,” Stanton said. “We felt he had a lot of connections. He really filled in the pieces of the puzzle and just was a guy we were really excited to get.”
Selvig has been groomed for this opportunity his entire life. He hails from a family of coaches, including his dad, Doug, who coached at Dawson County High School in Glendive for 13 seasons. The younger Selvig was an all-state player for the Red Devils under his father’s tutelage and ended his high school career being named the Gatorade Montana boys basketball player of the year in 2007.
Like his father in the 1980s, Derek Selvig put together a fine college career at the University of Montana, playing in 116 games, scoring 844 points and grabbing 562 rebounds from 2008-12. After a brief professional career in Germany, he returned to Montana and followed the family tradition, coaching at Billings West High School before ultimately joining Adam Hiatt’s staff at Montana Tech in 2016.
“Coach Hiatt was unbelievable in his detail and his approach, and just the way he taught the game of basketball was new to me,” Derek Selvig said. “It was my first experience in the coaching side of things. I just learned a ton from him and am super grateful for that opportunity. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now in this chair if it wasn’t for him, his mentorship and everything he taught me.”
Selvig will assuredly lean on his experience with the Orediggers as he now takes over his own program. He’ll also rely on the things he’s learned from former Griz coach Wayne Tinkle, who is now the head coach at Oregon State. Selvig also mentioned Tinkle’s assistant coaches from UM, including Bill Evans, Andy Hill, Jono Metzger-Jones and Freddie Owens.
And, of course, he’ll be able to dial up his family of coaches, including uncle Robin Selvig, who coached the Montana Lady Griz for 38 years.
“We wanted to have Derek here because of what he’s accomplished and what we feel he’s really going to accomplish, not something family members did as well,” Stanton said. “But obviously it’s a well-connected and well-respected family.”
“I don’t put too much stock into that last-name stuff. That’s not going to win a game, that’s not going to get a kid better on the floor,” Derek Selvig added. “It’s about all the work you do day in and day out.”
Selvig is inheriting an already complete roster set to begin practices for the 2020-21 season in less than two months. NAIA programs typically start the basketball seasons in mid-to-late October, and this year’s Blue Hawks are scheduled to tip off their season on Oct. 22 against Montana State-Northern. Their second game on the 2020-21 schedule is against Montana Tech.
The existing schedule should be considered tentative, though, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter sports lineups across the country. For now, Dickinson State is still planning to compete its fall football, volleyball and cross country seasons, but things can change quickly in today’s climate. That’s one of the challenges Selvig will face during his first season as a head coach.
“The schedule piece is huge. There’s a few (NCAA Division II teams) on the schedule and they’re not going to be able to play before January, I don’t think. Definitely trying to piece together a schedule here, it’s pretty late, but that’s one of the biggest things,” Selvig said.
“All these guys on the team, they want a good experience with their college experience, and with COVID hanging over everybody’s head, it’s like, ‘Am I going to be able to play? Am I going to lose my year of eligibility?’ It’s just questions you can’t really answer right now,” he added. “It’s just trying to focus on, let’s get better, let’s make sure we’re going to class and we’re getting all that stuff done, and everything else will take care of itself.”
While there’s plenty of administrative work to be done with the schedule and COVID-19 protocols, Selvig was obviously hired for his basketball acumen, and he’ll face high expectations from the university. Ultimately, Stanton said he expects Selvig to build the Blue Hawks into annual contenders for the North Star Athletic Association conference championship.
This year, Selvig will try to find success with players he doesn’t yet know. Meeting them and understanding their strengths and weaknesses is his first priority upon getting settled at DSU. From there, he’ll work toward determining the team’s philosophy and identity.
“Right now, my focus is on these guys on the team right now. I walked into a roster that was already set, so it was mainly getting ahold of all those guys and making sure they’re bought in and they’re coming,” Selvig said. “You just have to wait and see what this roster looks like as far as what their strengths and weaknesses are. I’m not going to set myself in stone here and say we’re going to run this or run that. We’re just going to take it day by day and go through the process.”