(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA -- The newest Lady Griz assistant, the one who completes first-year coach Brian Holsinger’s staff and hardly needs an introduction, checks all the boxes.
“She has all those things that I look for in people who can impact others, and ultimately this comes down to surrounding the team and this program with people who can give these young women the best experience of their lives, and I know she’ll do that,” said Holsinger.
And then Joslyn Tinkle just keeps checking off more boxes. She played in three Final Fours during her Stanford career for Tara VanDerveer-coached teams that went 137-10 before playing professionally in the WNBA, Hungary, Turkey and Australia.
“She played for one of the best coaches in the history of our game and has played in high-level games. It’s hard to beat that kind of experience,” said Holsinger.
And then there is the most obvious, the Montana connection. Tinkle grew up around the Lady Griz program and Grizzly athletics in general.
Her mom, Lisa (McLeod) Tinkle, has a spot in the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame, recognition for her distinguished Lady Griz career. Her dad, Wayne, coached the Montana men’s basketball team for eight seasons, taking the Grizzlies to three NCAA tournaments.
You may have seen him on national television a few months back, coaching his Oregon State team to within a few plays of the Final Four.
While the sport may have scattered the Tinkles over the years, Missoula has always been the common bond for the five of them, the place that feels like home even when it hasn’t been.
Now Joslyn Tinkle returns to a place that she makes sound like sacred ground.
“I came on the plane (on Wednesday), and I was like a kid in a candy store,” said Tinkle, the 2008 and 2009 Gatorade Montana player of the year at Big Sky High School. “It’s still a little surreal because this place means so much to me. It’s a special, special place, and that’s a feeling that’s never left me. This program has always meant an incredible amount to me and Missoula has always held a big place in my heart. To be able to come back, I couldn’t be more excited.”
She completes Holsinger’s staff that started with retaining Jordan Sullivan. Holsinger then added Nate Harris, now Tinkle, a trio of Montanans who love the state, who want to get the Lady Griz back to a place of prominence.
“There is already a cohesiveness with the three assistants, and that’s really important to me,” said Holsinger. “They know each other really well and will work well together.
“I’m excited to give Joslyn her first opportunity in coaching and a chance to learn and grow.”
It’s a hire that will surprise many, mostly because they didn’t know Tinkle had the interest. After her playing days were over, she settled into a sales and marketing job in Portland.
It was a career, but more than that it gave her proximity to watch her younger brother, Tres, finish out his own collegiate career at Oregon State. She’d missed a lot, of Elle’s days at Gonzaga, of Tres’s as a Beaver. She wanted to soak it all up before time stole it away.
“I wanted to make it a priority after missing out on my siblings’ seasons while I was playing abroad,” she said. “I wanted to be present for that.”
That love of family is what her dad has taken into his coaching career, of replicating that feeling within a team, of taking many and making them one. He’s done it so well and so successfully that Oregon State signed him to an extension in April that will keep him in Corvallis through the 2026-27 season.
That same thing is in his oldest daughter’s blood, and she always knew it.
“It’s something I’ve thought about, back to when I graduated. I love this sport and this game. There was this passion inside me, this fire, that this is what I want to do,” she says. “This is what I was meant to be doing.”
But she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play professionally. And she didn’t want a coaching career getting in the way of enjoying her siblings’ successes.
Finally, the timing was right, to get into coaching, to return to Montana.
“I interviewed a ton of people and kept coming back to her for a lot of different reasons,” said Holsinger, who coached at Oregon State himself the last five seasons. “She’s dynamic, and her interpersonal skills and ability to connect with people are elite.
“And she has a connection to this place and knows what this program is about. She made it clear that this is where she wanted to be.”
She’s been around the game her entire life. It’s why she was born in Sweden, during her dad’s 10-year playing career in Europe after he’d wrapped up his time as a Grizzly student-athlete.
She is a full-time coach for the first time and she admits there is going to be a big learning curve, but she’s been around the profession nearly as long as she’s been around the game, first in her own home growing up, then playing for VanDerveer, who led the Cardinal to the national championship in April.
“I was really, really lucky to play for Tara. She was extremely smart and always well prepared. That’s something I’ll take on,” said Tinkle. “I’ve talked to her about coaching every year since I graduated. She’s been a great source of knowledge and advice for me. I’m lucky to have her in my life.”
VanDerveer knows plenty about the Lady Griz program. She interviewed to be Montana’s head coach back in the spring of 1978, but ultimately the job went to a guy named Robin Selvig who did okay over the next 38 years.
VanDerveer took her third Stanford team, the one that would win her first national championship two years later, to Missoula for the NCAA tournament in March 1988. The Cardinal escaped with a 74-72 overtime win in front of a crowd of 8,709.
In March 1994, Montana and Stanford met up again, this time on the Cardinal’s home floor. Stanford won 66-62 in a second-round game on its way to the Elite Eight.
“I’m really excited for Joslyn,” said VerDerveer this week. “She will be an outstanding addition to the Montana women’s basketball staff and to the Missoula community.
“The Lady Griz have a tradition of excellence, and Joslyn has been part of championship teams and a championship culture, so this is a great fit.”
The toughest sell may have been her dad. Wayne Tinkle has made a successful career out of coaching, but he also knows the challenges and the hidden tolls the profession requires be paid in full before it will give up its rewards.
“As a dad, you don’t want to deter your kids from their dreams, but I wanted her to understand that a lot more goes into this than people think,” he said. “But then I reminded myself that she’s well-traveled, very experienced, so she knows all this. Then it turned to encouragement. The thing that sold me was when she said she wanted to make a difference in these young women’s lives. When she said that, it made total sense. She’s going to be awesome.
“I’m very excited for her and excited for my alma mater and the Lady Griz program. We’re excited for Brian and his entire staff. It’s a pretty neat deal for our family.”
When Holsinger was hired in April, he quickly locked up Sullivan as the first member of his staff. He added Harris soon thereafter.
He said the third hire would take a while. He wanted to make sure it was just the right fit, with the staff, with the Lady Griz program, with Missoula, with Montana.
It was worth the wait.
“I couldn’t be happier to be back home and joining what they have here. Brian is the perfect fit for Montana, and I was excited about the staff he already had in place,” Tinkle said. “This is what I want to do. This is what I was meant to be doing.
“Basketball has taken me to a lot of incredible places and given me some incredible opportunities. I want to share all that with these young women and make this the most incredible experience for them.”