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Florence native Shawn Chaffin helps guide success of NAIA tournament

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 18:53:46-04

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Hosting the NAIA women’s basketball tournament is no small task. It requires coordinating accommodations and schedules for 16 teams playing in 15 games across seven days, and making sure the event runs smoothly and efficiently.

Florence native Shawn Chaffin, who works on the NAIA Tournament Committee, helps oversee the success of the tournament and ensures it goes off without a hitch.

“Our roles on the committee are kind of all over the place,” he explained. “It's everything from on-site stuff like evaluating referees to scheduling practice times to helping with game day administration,” Chaffin said. “We help select the all-tournament team and sometimes have to help with the adjudication of discipline if there’s an issue. We help with all kinds of different things.”

Chaffin is the current head women’s basketball coach at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, where he’s spent the past two seasons. But he’s a proud Florence native whose 23-year coaching career included stops at Florence High School, Montana Western and the University of Great Falls (now University of Providence).

He recently came back to Montana to celebrate the 1998 Florence girls state championship team, on which he was an assistant coach.

“I don't get back to the Bitterroot (Valley) very often but when I do come back to Montana, it's usually basketball related,” Chaffin said. “But I enjoyed all my years in Montana, in the Frontier and then before that at the high school level.”

Chaffin was the head coach of the UGF women from 2006-2010. His first assistant was Jeff Graham who now leads the Montana Tech women. When Graham left for coaching opportunities in Belt, Chaffin tabbed current Argo head coach Bill Himmelberg as his top assistant in 2007.

“Bill was a perfect assistant for the next three years there before I moved on,” Chaffin said. “I definitely treasure my time with Bill. And we still talk literally every week. We go to a number of social things like clinics and things like that together, and he’s just a tremendous human being.”

As a committee member, Chaffin remained impartial. But admittedly he enjoys seeing Montana teams have success, because he knows that means the NAIA is in a good place.

“I remember hearing a name like (Carroll forward) Jamie Pickens when she was little, that she was playing in Montana City and would be a star for some high school. Now she's one of the best players in the country, and to see her growth, that's unbelievable,” Chaffin said. “That's really rewarding, even if that's not your player. Our sport's about growing the game and growing our people. So we really celebrate everybody's growth because that player getting better makes everybody else better.”

Chaffin has spent the better part of his 23 years in coaching at small colleges. After his time at UGF, he served as an assistant at Minot State before coaching at San Diego Christian College for five years. He believes the student-athlete experience in the NAIA is second to none.

“The NAIA is the one level of athletics that brings everybody together. In the NCAA Division I and Division II everything's regionalized,” Chaffin said. “Having everybody in one place and getting to see different styles, it's very student-athlete centered. So the student-athletes from one team get to know student-athletes from another team and they're making connections that they can use later on in life. ... So it’s really special.”