GREAT FALLS — Marietta (Bahnmiller) Boyce has been a prominent basketball figure in Montana since the 1980s, winning the 1986 Class C girls basketball state championship during her senior season at Big Sandy High School, where she played for Hall of Fame coach Roy Lackner.
The Pioneers went to state all four years of Bahnmiller’s high school career, compiling a 104-6 overall record, according to the Montana High School Association. The MHSA also lists a 58-point scoring game, which was a state record at the time, for Bahnmiller against Rocky Boy during that 1986 season.
Bahnmiller continued her playing career at the University of Montana before transferring to Rocky Mountain College, where she ultimately had a Hall of Fame career.
Upon graduation, she entered the coaching ranks, getting her start in Grass Range. She moved to Winifred prior to the 1993 girls basketball season and guided the Red Raiders to state championships in 1993, 1995 and 1996. Boyce has been in coaching for 20-plus years and has shared head coaching duties at Winifred and now Roy-Winifred with Mauri Elness since the early 2000s. The Outlaws advanced to the State C semifinal round in 2010 and 2017. Roy-Winifred lost to Box Elder in Saturday’s championship 48-42.
In this week’s Sunday Conversation with MTN Sports, Boyce recalls her playing days and discusses her coaching career in a wide-ranging sit-down interview.
MTN Sports: Just to kind of kickstart things, when basketball first became that passion for you?
Marietta Boyce: “Oh, gosh. It was probably in elementary school. I was pretty tall, so one of the junior high coaches asked me to come up, because we only had junior high, we didn’t have elementary. Asked me to come up and play with the junior high, so I did. It was kind of ugly to start with, because I would shoot and rebound my own shot, shoot, rebound, shoot, rebound until finally something else would happen. It was then, and then with coach (Roy) Lackner, who really kind of lit the fire as he was calling me every day asking if I put time in the gym or whatever or going on playing games of one-on-one or scrimmaging with the old guys that came into play or whatever.”
MTN Sports: What would you say is the biggest thing that he taught you?
Boyce: “Oh, gosh. Just probably the love of the game. And then after that it did become a passion. Didn’t realize there was much other than basketball until probably age 28 or 29, somewhere in there.”
MTN Sports: For those that haven’t watched and haven’t got the chance to watch Roy coach, you and I well know — you played for him and I played against him — what’s a good word?
Boyce: (Laughs) “Intense.”
MTN Sports: We would watch the intensity and the players would seem to ignore it, and I was always impressed, like, ‘You have the guts to ignore him right now?’ But they were listening and just kind of pushing him off on the side.
Boyce: “Actually, I’ve been asked, we were approached a lot of times by other players saying, ‘How can you play for him?’ I was like, ‘What?’ Of course, I guess I didn’t know any different. But I have the utmost respect for coach Lackner and have learned a lot from him. I guess that’s what I knew, so it didn’t even bother me. You can see, I probably coach a little like that in a sense and have been accused of being intense once or twice. It didn’t bother me. He didn’t offer a lot of words of praise, I guess, to my face anyway, but I know to others he always was bragging us up, so that was a good thing. But, yeah, everybody in the gym knew my name, just because he was yelling it on the sideline.”
MTN Sports: It’s state championship time. What was it like winning a state championship as a player?
Boyce: “Oh, it was amazing, just all the hard work that you put in as a player and then to get to that championship night and win the gold is always a lot of fun. Very rewarding.”
MTN Sports: Rocky Mountain College, what drew you there and what do you remember most about that career?
Boyce: “Well, I was really torn. I was being recruited by Rocky and the (University of Montana), and I went to the U first and played a couple years there and then I transferred to Rocky. And I just think that was a better fit, being a small-town girl or whatever. Went there and had a great couple years there.”
MTN Sports: Worked out all right, in the Hall of Fame. When they you that phone call, email, letter, whatever, shocked? Excited? What were the mixed emotions there?
Boyce: “Yeah, I just kind of chuckled, I guess. I never looked at myself as a Hall of Fame. I just worked hard and did what I could do. But it was fun, it was fun to get recognized.”
MTN Sports: To go from the playing days to the first coaching, what was kind of that transition? What was going on between the end of the Rocky career to even up until now where we just know you as this staple, you and co-coach Mauri Elness as the staple at Roy-Winifred?
Boyce: “When I was in Missoula, I coached a church team and I took a class for coaching basketball, so I think that kind of got me — well, actually I have to credit Lackner to that, too, because during accounting class when all the other kids were working on their accounting, he had me at his desk and we were talking Xs and Os and we were going through everything there. I started thinking that way, I guess, from the get-go. I really enjoyed that part of it, and then working with kids. I’ve always loved kids and young people. So that’s been a lot of fun. My first teaching job in Grass Range, I was an assistant coach. They had asked me then to come back as a head coach that following year, but then Winifred was kind of recruiting me, if you will. They said, ‘We have this really good group of junior high girls we would like you to come coach.’ So I did, I went to Winifred and took on that group. That’s when we had that great run with those girls, that was a lot of fun.”
MTN Sports: Mid-90s at that point?
Boyce: “Yep, mid-90s. ’93 was the first (state championship). Back when girls basketball was in the fall.”
MTN Sports: What was it like, having it won it as a player, watching and winning it as a coach? What were the differences?
Boyce: “I was probably a little intense, too, just coming out of college basketball, so I had pretty high expectations. Probably didn’t even really appreciate what I was given at that point with those girls. Looking back on that, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. What a coach’s dream to have the players we had.’ And not just one, two or three of them, we had a very solid group of girls. They were just a lot of fun. Good kids, good kids.”
MTN Sports: One of the cool things and one of the things that’s not well-known to those that aren’t familiar with Roy-Winifred is these co-head coaches. How did that all come about?
Boyce: “Well, when I started having babies, I stepped down out of basketball for a little bit. Todd Foran asked me to help him out one year, so I did. Then I had another kid. Then Mauri actually moved into the head-coaching job. So after I was done, Ken Bergum and Mauri took on the program. That was hard for me, because I just had to step out completely. I was still the athletic director, but I just stepped back. She’d ask me questions about the game, and I’m like, ‘I just couldn’t even watch it,’ you know? So, that was hard. She kept calling and we’d talk basketball, and we can talk basketball for hours on hours. Pretty soon, she asked if I wanted to come in and help. She moved into the head job and then I was just helping her kind of. Then pretty soon, I got closer and closer to that bench or whatever. Then the next year we decided to — I think I was an assistant or whatever and then we just talked and we agreed to be co-coaches. Not many can wrap their head around that, I guess. Everybody’s like, ‘How’s that work?’ But we’re such good friends, and we’ve done it many ways. We used to take turns standing or we would stand for a weekend or a game or it just depended. And we’re both very similar, we’re both pretty intense, and we both like control. It’s not that it hasn’t had its challenges, but we’re such good friends we can work it out. Now with my daughters coming up, she said she would go ahead and take on the sitting part of that and I got to stand. Now my daughter will graduate next year and her’s will be an eighth grader, so then we’ll probably go role reversal and continue to work together.”
MTN Sports: I have to admit, I don’t ever remember you sitting. That right there, we don’t have any video of that.
Boyce: (Laughs) “Maybe crouching.”
MTN Sports: What’s the game-planning and the prep and all of that stuff like between the two of you, being so similar and having basketball minds and just being sure that the girls are ready to play whomever can be lined up across the court?
Boyce: “Well, obviously she was a great point guard, and so she takes on more of that guard outlook or whatever, and I was a post player, so we like to think what one doesn’t think of the other one does or something. We both have a love of the game and we can discuss the ins and out of everything. She’s intense, too, but she’s brought a lighter and funner aspect of things maybe, I think, from my perspective. So she tries to mellow me out a little bit, but it’s a full-time job.”
MTN Sports: The other part of that is the co-op part of it, and we’re starting to see this everywhere in the state of Montana. What were the original challenges when you named Roy dash Winifred as opposed to just these two proud of towns as we see all across Class C?
Boyce: “Every school has their own pride or whatever, so to take two towns and combine them is always a challenge, I think. I think Mauri started grabbing some of those girls in the junior high, like the Crest girl and the Sturm girl and them and the Bergums and stuff, so we started playing some junior high tournaments together. The girls co-opped first, before the boys did, and it was a pretty easy transition just because they had played some junior high ball together. We were pretty excited when we first co-opped, but not everybody was, obviously. But I think we worked really hard at it to make it work, and it’s been a good thing for us.”
MTN Sports: State championship as a player, state championship coach, now your daughter is playing in the state championship and you’re coaching. Can you wrap your mind around that? Did you ever see this scenario?
Boyce: “Well, I had always hoped, but I try not to look too far ahead, I guess. We prefer to be in the here and now. I know a lot of other coaches are giving stats and all these other things, and we were really, as I read in the paper or something, a couple of our girls didn’t even know what Scobey’s record was. So, rather than focusing on our competition, we try to focus on what we’re doing right now, kind of being in the here and now and taking that approach and doing what we do. I think that’s very much how Dyauni plays, and she just goes out there and works hard and does what she can do.”
MTN Sports: We touched on this earlier. We talked with you about Roy. We talked with her about you afterward. Is she going to be in this role sometime in the future where you see her being you, where you were being Roy, that kind of intensity and passion brought to the sidelines?
Boyce: “She’s probably a lot nicer. (Laughs) Actually, she was pretty ornery when she was little, and sometimes I would like to see that a little more now. She gets accused of looking like me and sounding like me, and I bet she starts acting like me, too, a little bit. She’s starting to figure out what she wants to do, and I could very much see her as a teacher and a coach somewhere. She loves kids, as well.”
MTN Sports: We just have to put everybody on the spot. How long’s this going to go? How long do you want to do this for?
Boyce: “No, no. It’s exhausting. I put my heart and soul into it a lot of times, I do. I love the girls, I love the kids I work with, and I love the sport. I don’t think my husband will let me do it forever. He’s been very patient, though, and I appreciate his support. With Dyauni graduating next year, like I already said, Mauri and I, we have a lot of fun together and work well together, so we’ll see. I think our future is bright. Everybody’s asking about our managers on the bench. Madeline (Heggem’s) younger sister Isabelle is a 6-(foot)-2 seventh grader. Then her sidekick Laynee is Mauri’s daughter. She’s a good little point guard, too. I might stick around for a little bit and see how that turns out.”