Three Montana high school sports coaches received national recognition last week at the National High School Athletic Coaches Association convention in Lincoln, Nebraska. Paul Barta and Larry Smith each received national Coach of the Year honors, while Mark Yoakam was inducted into the association's Hall of Fame.
Barta received the 2021 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year award. He's coached boys and girls basketball over his 41-year career, which includes coaching stints in Columbus (twice), Medicine Lake, Glasgow and most recently Laurel. Barta coached five of his teams to runner-up finishes at state, and has been a nine-time nominee for the Montana Coaches Association COY and was inducted into the MCA Hall of Fame in 2015.
Smith is a 35-year softball coaching veteran who received the 2021 National Softball Coach of the Year honors. Smith, who spent his entire career in Polson, led the Pirates to seven State A championships and 13 total trophies. Smith is a five-time MCA Softball Coach of the Year and was inducted into the MCA Hall of Fame in 2017.
Yoakam made his mark in cross country and track and field, coaching athletes in Glasgow, Corvallis and Sidney, Nebraska over a 48-year career. Yoakam's teams have collected 26 state championships, as well as 14 runner-up and 12 third-place finishes. His 1976 Glasgow girls cross country team won the State A meet with just 25 points, the lowest ever for a Class A champion. In 2013, his Corvallis girls track and field team won State A with 185.5 points, which stands as the most points scored at a Montana high school state track meet.
Yoakam was selected as National Girls’ Assistant Coach of the Year in 2016, and he was inducted into the MCA Hall of Fame in 1997 along with being a three-time MCA Coach of the Year.