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New Montana Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger 'grateful' to be back in Treasure State

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 20:40:23-04

MISSOULA — Stability was the name of the game for the Montana Lady Griz women's basketball program.

Over a 38-year stretch, the Lady Griz were a constant in Missoula as a perennial contender in the Big Sky Conference.

UM is hoping to regain that consistency and high level of play after the university officially introduced Brian Holsinger as the next head women's basketball coach on Wednesday morning. Holsinger was announced as the next coach on Tuesday.

"I’m humbled and grateful for this opportunity," Holsinger told assembled media on Wednesday. "It’s unique, I know what this program means to this state. I know what this program means to the University of Montana. And that makes it really exciting for me because that’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for."

After Selvig led the Lady Griz for 38 years, lately it's been a coaching carousel at UM, including three heads coaches in three years. After Shannon Schweyen was not retained after four years at the helm, Mike Petrino led Montana throughout the pandemic season as interim coach in 2020-21.

Montana athletic director Kent Haslam began the press conference by thanking Petrino and his staff of Jordan Sullivan, Nate Covill and Jace Henderson for their work with the Lady Griz during this past season which was played entirely under COVID-19 restrictions.

For Holsinger, his hiring marks a return to the Treasure State. His first head coaching job began at Montana Tech in Butte from 2005-07. He reminisced about being hired by former Tech football coach and athletic director Bob Green and how he learned his way around the state while also learning how massive Selvig's Lady Griz teams were to the basketball scene in the state.

Initially living in Southern California at the time, Holsinger and his wife were hesitant to head north to Butte. After making the move, Holsinger said he knew at the time it was the right choice and looks back at those memories fondly.

"Butte, honestly, I look back and I’m like I was supposed to go there and it honestly has led me to this in a lot of ways because my experience there even for two years just really allowed me to understand Montana, allowed me to understand Montana people and how special it really is to be honest so I’m so thankful for my time there," he said.

After the two years at Tech, Holsinger went on to have a 13-year career as an assistant coach in the Pac-12 Conference, eight seasons at Washington State and five at Oregon State. He spent the 2015-16 season off from coaching. During his time in the Pac-12, Holsinger was heavily involved in recruiting at both schools. At OSU with head coach Scott Rueck, the Beavers were perennially one of the top women's basketball programs in the Pac-12 and college basketball, and twice advanced to the Sweet 16 during Holsinger's time there.

Holsinger graduated from Western Washington in 1999 with degrees in biology and chemistry.

Holsinger said his top priority is getting a staff together, adding he's been in contact with current UM coaches and didn't rule out bringing any of them back, but also said he currently didn't have any offers out to anyone. He'll be in Missoula on Friday through the weekend where he'll get a chance to meet the current players on the Lady Griz roster.

Another focus is finding the right balance of in-state recruits and players from outside of the state so UM can be competitive.

"I do understand how important (in-state recruiting) is and I understand how sensitive you have to be about it. To be honest, you have to be sensitive," Holsinger said. "At the same time, I will tell you we have to build this program in a way that's going to be the best players here to win championships. We are going to focus for sure on the best players in the state of Montana, without a doubt. I'd love to establish a place again where it's like, 'Oh, Brian called, great. We're going there.' But we also have to go out and get players from other places and I've had experience in that too."

Holsinger said he reached out to Selvig on Tuesday and plans on using him as a mentor going forward in his coaching career at UM.

Montana's program carries a lot of tradition, something Holsinger is well aware of. Haslam said Holsinger carried a good balance of respecting and building off of that tradition as well as moving the program forward in the ever-changing world of college basketball.

"Brian, to me, was a good mix of honoring the past, building on the past, recognizing the past but also realizing now we’re faced with transfer portals, social media, international recruiting," Haslam said. "All of those other things that are here to be part of college athletics and if you pretend they're not there, you're just not going to be successful."

For now, Holsinger's goal is to get started as the Lady Griz continue to search for their first Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament title since 2015. Montana finished 12-11 overall and 9-8 in Big Sky Conference play last season before bowing out of the conference tournament in the first round to No. 11-seed Sacramento State.

"I’m a person that doesn’t shy away from any challenge at all," Holsinger said. "I know what was here, I’ve seen it firsthand what this was about and the excitement of building it back to a place where we’re winning championships, and we’re packing Dahlberg, it just fires me up."