KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gary Turcott has been to a national tournament or two. Seven, to be exact.
The former Carroll College men’s basketball coach, who landed in the school’s Hall of Fame, spent 19 seasons on the bench with the Fighting Saints, advancing as far as the NAIA Division I men’s national semifinals in 2005.
Current Carroll men’s coach Kurt Paulson just happened to be one of the leaders of Turcott’s team that season.
“First of all, Kurt, he was such a solid leader and he was on the team in 2005 that did get to the semis, the final four. Of course we lost, and that was disappointing,” said Turcott. “But to see him back in his first year as a head coach, the job he’s done, we could talk about it for a half hour, all the little things he’s had to deal with — the injuries that he’s had to deal with all year long — now to have his team in the championship game.”
Paulson has been quick to credit Turcott’s tutelage as the reason for his success in his first head coaching job, but the respect certainly goes both ways. Turcott, an assistant to Rachelle Sayers and the Carroll women’s basketball program, sat courtside for every Fighting Saints’ conference game this season and is enjoying their magical run in Municipal Auditorium Arena.
“I’ve gotten really close to the team, been able to follow the team, watched them through the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. It’s just been a journey, a very special one for me,” said Turcott. “To see what they’ve done, it’s just hard to describe how hard it is to do that in the national tournament. I mean, just a week ago there were 32 teams there, now there are two and we’re one of them.”
“I think the whole Carroll community is about as excited since they’ve been, probably since 2010, I think, is when we won our last football championship,” Turcott continued. “It’s been a little while, we’ve had a little dry spell. But this is also unique that basketball has never come this far. It’s unique, it’s exciting and I think people are pretty revved up.”
Turcott, who owns arguably the largest branch of Montana basketball’s coaching tree, can’t help but find the irony, maybe even the humor, in the fact that his pupil, Paulson, has guided the program to the national championship game in his first year.
“I don’t think there’s anything fair in basketball,” he laughed. “There’s no cheap or quick way to get where they are. You have to work really hard and you have to be a little bit lucky, which always helps.”
Carroll College and Georgetown College tip off at 7 p.m. (MDT), with the game streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. MontanaSports.com will provide a live scoreboard during the championship game.
For more details on how to watch the game, please click here.