CALDWELL, Idaho – Colby Blaine hasn’t slept much in the past seven days.
The College of Idaho assistant men’s basketball coach was named a finalist for the Montana Western vacancy on Friday, April 13 and was scheduled to be in Dillon on Thursday afternoon as part of a community meet and greet.
Blaine never made it.
“It was a crazy couple of days. I don’t know if I had eaten since I had breakfast around 8 a.m. on Monday morning, but I am catching up,” he said, referring to a wild weekend which took an unusual turn.
When College of Idaho head coach Scott Garson announced his immediate resignation on Monday, that opened the door for Blaine to potentially remain in Caldwell with the Yotes, where he has spent the past four years. College of Idaho athletic director Reagan Rossi made the news official some 16 hours later.
“It’s been fun, it’s been an awesome deal, but it was totally out of left field. I’m very privileged and lucky that it happened, but I had no idea that this was something that could happen. It’s an ideal situation. Coach Garson has done an unbelievable job in the last five years, he set the bar really high, believe me, I know that. I’ve been able to be a part of the last four years, but it was a great deal for him and his family to move back to California, take on a new challenge in his career,” Blaine said of Garson, who accepted an assistant coaching position at Santa Clara University. “I know he’s excited and we’re excited for him. It was an ideal situation for me. I grew up in Idaho, I’m originally from Boise, we’re in Caldwell and that’s about 30 minutes away from Boise, so I’m right in my own valley where I grew up. This school is special and I’ve been part of it for the last four years where we’ve accomplished a lot, we get to coach some really good kids and I couldn’t have wanted this job any more at the end of the day.”
I am overwhelmed and amazed at the outreach and support I have recieved today! I am the luckiest man alive to have such great friends! I CANT BEGIN TO TELL YOU ALL HOW STOKED I AM TO BE THE NEW HEAD COACH at THE COLLEGE OF IDAHO! #GoYotes pic.twitter.com/TOxjz6Ms0Q
— Colby Blaine (@Colby_Blaine) April 24, 2018
Taking over the Yotes’ program was an incredible opportunity, but certainly wasn’t on Blaine’s immediate radar. The 2009 Montana Western grad was intrigued when longtime Bulldogs’ coach Steve Keller accepted the same position at the University of Providence in Great Falls, and wasted little time making his interest in the vacant coaching position known.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised, I guess. I know Coach Keller had mentioned as he went through his career that he’s always up for a new challenge, so it didn’t necessarily surprise me, but I didn’t expect anything to happen for two or three more years,” Blaine said of Keller’s move. “Shoot, he’s done an unbelievable job there for 11 years, making eight of the last nine national tournaments and he’s set the bar high there. I think he’s done what he can do, I think he’s excited for a new challenge and when I saw that job open, I immediately thought to myself, ‘OK, this is a really good situation and it’s a place I love, a place that means a lot to me,’ so I definitely wanted to get in the mix.”
Blaine did one better, impressing Montana Western athletic director Bill Wilson, along with the Bulldogs’ search committee. He, along with Oklahoma Panhandle State head coach Jerry Olson, a former Montana State assistant under Mick Durham, and Dakota State’s top assistant Mike Larsen, were named the three finalists two weeks ago.
Blaine’s Montana Western ties, along with his valuable coaching experience, made him an intriguing candidate for the job. It didn’t take long for other Treasure State coaches to offer their best as the process continued.
“It was only last Friday I was with the Select AAU program, which is Montana and Idaho high school kids, we were in Seattle and I was sitting with a bunch of Montana coaches — Derek Selvig from Montana Tech and a bunch of other guys who coach in Montana — and Montana players, sitting and talking about how I was going to try to see if I could finish this Montana Western deal,” said Blaine. “I was really hoping I could get it, and that was just on Friday, so it was less than six days ago we were talking about it. It was certainly something I really wanted, I definitely wanted to be a head coach, and that being my alma mater makes it a special place, it’s a great program, but this just worked out where it’s an easy transition for me since I’ve been here.”
Only four days into his new role, Blaine joked about his head coaching duties to date, stating “the honeymoon phase is about to end” and that he is currently “rolling with the punches, figuring out what the challenges are.” One of those tasks is likely to be recruiting — the Yotes’ roster currently lists two seniors, four juniors and a pair of sophomores.
Recruiting is nothing new for Blaine, who has spent the past nine years coaching the Select AAU program, which consists of Idaho and Montana’s top talents. College of Idaho is loaded with talent from the Gem State, but no Treasure State athletes.
“I’m really, really hoping that my ability to coach those kids during the spring and the summer has built some relationships that maybe we can pull some kids down this way,” Blaine said. “Last summer I coached our Top 16s team and I got to coach six of the Montana players in the state — kids like (Manhattan Christian’s) Caleb Bellach, (Lewistown’s) Jaden Graham, (Billings Skyview’s) Zach Schacht, (Lewistown’s) Tanner Trafton, (Missoula Hellgate’s) Rollie Worster and (Melstone’s) Brody Grebe — so I got to really get to know those guys and they’re great players.
“I have great relationships, but obviously all those Montana schools will be recruiting them, too, but it would be great to get one of those guys down here to the College of Idaho. We have seven Idaho players on our roster of 13, that’s really meant a lot, but we have a great situation down here and it would be great to grab one of those Montana guys at some point.”
That would certainly be one way to rest easy.