GREAT FALLS – Basketball players, fans, coaches and officials across Montana are mourning the death of long-time coach Griff Bye this weekend.
“It’s a very sad day here in our community,” said current Sunburst boys basketball coach Nate Aschim, who also played for the Refiners. “Griff’s personality was infectious. Everywhere you went, you ran into someone he knew. That’s just a testament to the kind of guy he was. He was truly unforgettable.
“He was a positive part of so many kids’ lives and I think that’s evident with all of the outpouring of memories we’ve seen. He will be missed as a coach, a community member, but most importantly to me, as a friend and mentor.”
Bye, known mostly for his years spent in Sunburst, coached in Power the past two seasons. He also had a recent stint at North Star, where coach and athletic director Brian Campbell says he impacted many, including himself.
“Griff was the most genuine person I have ever met,” Campbell said. “He only had to know you five minutes and you were his friend. If we are defined by the lives we touched, he is on a different level than everyone else. I loved him.”
“Griff made everyone around him a better person,” added Belt girls basketball coach Jeff Graham, who played against his Sunburst teams while at Chester. “We should all get to treat other people and coach kids the way he did.”
“Griff was genuinely friendly to all,” said Power’s Loren Dunk. “Intelligent, articulate and knowledgable about so many things. He was fun to be around. Griff was a teacher, he had an elementary education degree and was just a few credits short of math and English endorsements. He taught for one year, 1985-1986, at Rocky Boy. He had a gift to connect with and forever remember everyone with whom he crossed paths.”
“I never got tired of listening to him tell stories, and he had a zillion of them,” Dunk went on.
Griff coached at Sunburst, Valier, North Star, Rocky Boy and Power over the years, and coached basketball, softball and baseball. His connection to the Northern C coaching world spans 30-plus years. But, his connection to the state through coaching and playing softball really has no end.
“He connected with every player and made them feel important – from the best player to the kid that didn’t ever play much varsity,” Dunk said. “He understood that people criticize coaches but he never held grudges or let things get personal. I will miss him deeply, but get comfort having so many memories to keep me laughing.”
Fellow coaches, athletes and colleagues took to social media to pay their respect for the man who was approaching 1,000 career games coached.
Sending thoughts and prayers from the Box Elder Bears to the family & friends of Coach Griff Bye. Glad I got the good fortune to meet him.
— Neal Rosette Jr. (@BoxcityAD) May 7, 2017
R.I.P. Griff Bye. Great coach, even better person. You will be missed.🙌🏽❤️😢
— Reece Green (@reece24green) May 7, 2017