SIMMS — Fresh off back-to-back District 10C championships, the Simms girls basketball team will be looking for a new coach after longtime mentor Truitt Kinna announced Thursday he will retire. Kinna’s coaching career stretches back 26 years, where he coached more than 500 games and won six district championships.
“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about. But it’s not a bad thing,” Kinna said. “When you look back at your career and you think of all the bus rides and all the morning practices and the after-school, late practices that maybe there’s time to do some other things.”
Kinna’s head coaching career started rather unexpectedly. It was in the mid-1990s in his hometown of Wolf Point, where he was a JV boys coach. One Saturday morning he woke up to a phone call from the principal.
“Apparently the night before at the girls basketball game there was a little incident and they decided to fire the coach. And they said, ‘We need a coach to go to Malta tonight to go ahead and play. We were wondering if you wanted to do it,’” Kinna said.
“I had to go up against, or we had to go up against, Linda Cummings and Cheryl Keller, who eventually played for the (Montana) Grizzlies, and of course Hall of Fame coach Del Fried. Got out of there by losing by 62,” Kinna said about his first game.
After Wolf Point, Kinna went to Simms, where he coached the boys team. Later, Kinna coached both the Augusta boys and girls until a girls co-op prior to the 2013-14 season led him back to Simms.
Wherever he coached, one of Kinna’s goals was to bring home a trophy. The Augusta boys won three consecutive District 8C championships from 2007-09 under his watch, and he added more titles to his resume in 2014, 2018 and 2019 with the Simms* girls in the 10C. Despite the trophies, Kinna will remember the friendships the most.
“When I really think about it, I think of the relationships with the kids. I’ve been in one of my players’ weddings. I keep in touch with a lot of my players,” Kinna said. “My best friends are coaches. And the coaches you get to hang out with, you do summer camps with, go to coaches clinic, coach all-star games with them.”
Kinna, who teaches social studies and physical education in Simms, said he plans to teach two more years and continue to follow basketball in Montana. He added he’d like to see the Simms girls continue to improve, but he’s excited about watching other competition.
“You don’t have a weekend that’s tied down, and now you can get up and go any time you want. So I’m going to enjoy that,” he said.
*Note: The 2014 championship was won under the Simms-Augusta girls co-op.