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Luke Fennelly has interim tag removed, announced as MSU Billings men's basketball head coach

Posted at 10:26 AM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 13:52:06-04

(Editor's note: MSU Billings media release)

BILLINGS — The Montana State University Billings athletic department has announced the appointment of Luke Fennelly as head coach for the MSUB men's basketball program. After three seasons as assistant coach under Mick Durham and one year as interim head coach, Luke Fennelly has officially been named as the MSUB head men’s basketball coach.

“Luke’s ability to lead a program at a high level speaks for itself,” said athletic director Michael Bazemore. “While this past season highlights this point, his leadership within our men’s basketball program and effect on key elements of our success started when he was an assistant coach. We are extremely excited to transition him to the permanent position and look forward to helping him build our program.”

In his first season as head coach of the MSUB men’s basketball team, Fennelly claimed NCAA West Region Coach of the Year and GNAC Coach of the Year honors. Fennelly’s 2023-24 resume speaks for itself as he is the first head coach at MSUB to win a regular-season title in their first season of leading the program and fifth overall coach in GNAC history to do so. He is also just the fourth coach in GNAC history to earn GNAC Coach of the Year in their first season and it is the third time in GNAC history to have two different coaches from the same school win this award in back-to-back seasons after Mick Durham claimed it in 2022-23.

“I am honored to continue leading the men’s basketball program here at MSUB," Fennelly said. "I am grateful for Michael Bazemore and Stefani Hicswa for giving me the opportunity to pursue the growth and development of this program and to create long lasting relationships with future student-athletes. Together, with the department and the community support, we can strive for a program that Billings and the state of Montana can be proud of. Go ‘Jackets!”

Following a historic 2022-23 season, Fennelly beat the odds and repeated it with a whole new squad. Having just one returning starter, Fennelly rebuilt and repeated another 20-win season, a 14-conference win season, and punched another ticket to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.

Fennelly helped oversee one of the top seasons in the program's history this past season. MSUB went 20-10 overall and 14-4 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, finishing second in the regular-season standings and qualifying for the NCAA DII National Tournament. The 20 wins last season tied for the most in a season for MSUB since 2005-06, and the 'Jackets earned their best ever finish in the GNAC standings.

Fennelly has been the lead recruiter for some of MSUB's top players over the past few seasons as he has garnered some talented transfers to join the Yellowjackets, many of which have contributed right away and been a large part of the recent team success. A few of these notable players include Jalen Tot (‘23-’24 West Region Player of the Year, ‘23-24 GNAC Player of the Year), Daniel Moody (‘23-’24 GNAC First Team and Newcomer of the Year), Stephen Richardson (‘23-’24 GNAC Defensive Player of the Year and All-GNAC Honorable Mention), Carrington Wiggins (‘22-’23 GNAC Player of the Year, ‘22-’23 First Team All-Region, ‘21-’22 All-GNAC First Team), Bilal Shabazz (‘22-’23 All-GNAC First Team and Defensive Player of the Year, ‘22-’23 Second Team All-Region) and Damen Thacker (‘21-’22 All-GNAC Honorable Mention).

Before joining the Yellowjackets, Fennelly spent seven seasons as a member of the coaching staff at Montana State University, where he climbed the ladder from a graduate assistant coach, to operations coordinator, to assistant coach. He was among one of the youngest DI assistant coaches when he assumed the position at Montana State at the age of 28.

Fennelly began his coaching career at Lane Community College. He rose to head assistant there in 2012-13 and helped the team earn a 22-10 record, a top ranking in the NWAC, and a berth in the league tournament for the first time in five seasons.

Fennelly earned his bachelor's degree in sports business from the University of Oregon and master's in health and human performance.