BANDON, Ore. – Wayne Tinkle had just finished a rough couple days on the golf course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, but the Oregon State men’s basketball coach’s aches and pains couldn’t hide his excitement for Kurt Paulson.
Paulson, Tinkle’s director of basketball operations with the Beavers, was named Carroll College’s 27th head men’s basketball coach on Thursday.
“I think he’s going to bring a fresh perspective and kind of a renewed enthusiasm (to the Frontier Conference),” Tinkle said of Paulson. “It’s not like when you get long in the tooth you lose your enthusiasm, but I think he’s going to inject a new spirit into the way he goes about his business and relationships.”
Paulson has consistently brought that enthusiasm to Tinkle’s staff and team meetings since 2013. He first joined Tinkle’s staff at Montana as a graduate assistant in 2009, but Paulson became a full-time member of the staff in 2013 when he assumed the role of director of basketball operations with the Grizzlies.
When Tinkle left Missoula in 2014 to take over the Oregon State program, Paulson followed him to Corvallis, Ore. He’d been with the Beavers since, coordinating schedules and travel among other things.
“His responsibilities were far and wide and I know we kept him busy, but he never batted an eye at it,” Tinkle said. “The thing I loved about him is – he’s got to be real careful, (directors of basketball operations) can’t do any coaching – but a couple times in our team meetings and staff meetings, man, he jumped in and got our guys going and fired up. … He was always into it, man, and we’re going to miss that passion and energy.”
Tinkle recalled witnessing that energy early and often, dating back to the early 2000s when Tinkle was a Griz assistant. Paulson, a 2001 Whitefish High School graduate, would visit Griz basketball camps before he joined Carroll College as a player. He spent five seasons under Saints Hall of Fame coach Gary Turcott.
After three years as an assistant for Turcott, Paulson then joined Tinkle’s staff as a graduate assistant in 2009. Upon graduating, Paulson left UM for the high school ranks, taking over as the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Bigfork High School.
It was only a matter of time before Tinkle came calling again.
“When I had an opening on my staff my last year at Montana, I was thrilled to bring him back, and obviously kept him with us when we went to Oregon State,” Tinkle said.
“I just love his passion. He’s got a sharp basketball mind, he’s a good X and O guy,” Tinkle added. “Just the energy, the passion, he just exudes enthusiasm, and I know our players loved it. Had a lot of respect for him because of the work, the diligence he went about it with. He’s got great relationships, so I think that’s going to continue to foster his recruiting ties and relationships that he had and that he continued to cultivate when he was with us. I just know that he’s going to pour his heart and soul into that job. Having played there, I think it’s going to do a lot. I know it was special for me at Montana. When you coach your alma mater, it’s just every day you’re motivated to bring your best, to do your best and to make good things happen. That’s the way he’s built, as well.”
Paulson has tasted success everywhere he’s been. As a player, he helped Carroll to the 2005 NAIA semifinals and 2006 NAIA quarterfinals. As a coach, he’s been parts of teams that advanced to both the NAIA and NCAA tournaments.
Now, he takes over a Carroll program that experienced plenty of success under Dr. Carson Cunningham the past five seasons. The Saints have had four consecutive winning seasons and qualified for the NAIA national tournament three times, advancing to the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2017. Cunningham was named the head coach at Division I Incarnate Word last month.