HELENA — One of Montana’s best basketball minds is leaving the Treasure State.
Bill Pilgeram is stepping down as the Helena Capital girls basketball coach and taking his trademark sweater vest to Salem, Ore., where he will be named the new head women’s basketball coach at Corban University later Friday.
“On behalf of Corban Athletics, we are thrilled to be bringing on Bill Pilgeram as our women’s basketball head coach,” Corban University assistant athletic director Sue Roth said in a media release. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game. We had an amazing pool of candidates for this position, and Bill rose to the top, and for good reason. We feel very blessed and thankful that Bill and his wife Candice will be making this transition from Montana to Oregon, and we are confident that he is a great fit for Corban.”
“I wasn’t actively pursuing, but it’s been a goal of mine forever that, at some point, I wanted to possibly try college coaching,” said Pilgeram. “I thought that would happen at some point, and then this job opened up and it was one I couldn’t turn down at least pursuing.”
Pilgeram, a Plains native, has spent the past 20 years at Capital. He compiled a 95-75 record over eight seasons as the boys coach before taking over the girls program in 2006. He has since guided the Lady Bruins to runner-up finishes at the Class AA state tournament in 2007 and 2013 and a State AA championship in 2015, the first in program history.
During his 12 years as the Capital coach, Pilgeram compiled a record of 196-88, advancing to the state tournament 11 times. The Bruins finished fourth three times, including this past season to conclude a 20-6 campaign.
“I love the kids I’ve coached. I’ve been so lucky at Capital, in terms of the girls I’ve coached in the past and most recently. The quality of kids, the experiences we’ve had, those are things I’ll cherish forever, no matter what level I’m coaching,” Pilgeram said. “No matter when you have change, it’s going to hurt a little bit, but I’ll look back with great memories on Capital Lady Bruin basketball and everything we’ve accomplished and done, the relationships we’ve had. That’s going to go on and Capital basketball is in a great place.”
Not only is Pilgeram a well-respected coach across Montana, he’s one of the best players the state has ever produced. He helped lead Plains to the Class B state championship as a senior averaging 23 points per game. Pilgeram ultimately continued his playing career at Carroll College from 1988-92 under then-coach Gary Turcott. Pilgeram finished his playing career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,515 career points.
Corban is a Christian college in the NAIA’s Cascade Collegiate Conference, and Pilgeram is actively involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The Warriors were searching for a new coach after Michelle Skyles resigned after two seasons. Corban finished last season with a 13-15 overall record and 9-11 conference mark.
Pilgeram has a further connection to the university and the Salem area. His middle daughter, Sadie, played at Corban after graduating from Capital in 2013. She scored more than 1,000 career points for the Warriors and was twice named an all-conference honorable mention selection and NAIA scholar-athlete. Sadie still lives in the area.
Sadie’s younger sister, Rayna, will enter her senior season with the Carroll College volleyball program next fall, the only downfall to otherwise perfect timing, according to Pilgeram.
“It’s going to get hammered and I’m going to follow everything she does,” Pilgeram laughed about the Carroll athletics YouTube channel. “We’ve been very spoiled in the last three years to watch her locally as she’s blossomed into the player she is. I’m very proud of her. That’s the one thing where maybe timing-wise it wasn’t as good as it could be, but it’s also an opportunity I didn’t feel I could pass up.”
“Every one (of my daughters) said, ‘Dad, this is a great opportunity for you. It’s the exact position made for you, so you have to do it,'” Pilgeram added.
Pilgeram will officially begin his duties at Corban on July 1. The search for Pilgeram’s replacement at Capital is underway, but Pilgeram says the program doesn’t need to look far for a qualified candidate.
“I’ve had an amazing staff here. I’ve been with Katie Garcin, our junior varsity coach, for six years. Honestly, we’re co-head coaches on the court,” Pilgeram said. “I would have no hesitation thinking there would be a very seamless transition if she were to get the job, which she is interested in, hopefully. I think that would be the most seamless and I know the girls love Katie, they love what she does and I have no doubt they would be in great hands.”
MTN Sports’ Richie Melby contributed to this report.