HELENA — After a winding road along basketball's hardwood, Derek Selvig is now a head coach. Selvig recently took the head coaching position at Dickinson State. A Glendive native, Selvig starred as a prep standout at Dawson County High School, going 44-4 in his junior and senior seasons before being named the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007.
Selvig went on to star at Montana as a 7-foot post player under former Griz coach and current Oregon State men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle. Selvig appeared in 116 games for UM, starting in his junior and senior seasons, and helped lead Montana to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2012. In his career, Selvig scored 844 points and grabbed 562 rebounds for the Griz, and shot 42.2 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from 3-point range.
Selvig went on to play overseas in Germany before returning to the U.S. and beginning his coaching career as an assistant coach at Billings West High School. He previously was on the staff at Montana Tech before accepting the head job in Dickinson.
Selvig was recently in Helena to take on the Carroll College Fighting Saints in a non-conference NAIA matchup. Before the game, Selvig sat down with MTN Sports to discuss his career and his current situation with the Blue Hawks.
MTN Sports: We'll kind of start from the beginning, born or raised in Glendive, kind of traversed the entire state. Now, finally, you're getting a chance to become a head coach. When you first got that call that -- when they offered you the job, what was your initial reaction?
Derek Selvig: I was shocked, honestly. You know, it was actually right after my interview, I was in coach Stan's office. And, you know, I just, I really wasn't expecting it. I was, you know, just super pumped to get the on-campus interview, to go through the process. You know, Coach Hiatt at Tech really, really pushed for me really hard to get me that on campus interview, and went really well. And he offered me the job. And I was just, I mean, I was just taken aback. I, you know, my wife and I had talked about the possibility but you know, it was just kind of like, well, we're just kind of doing the thing in the process. And, and I was like, Oh, I got to talk to her for you know, so it, it definitely was a shocker.
MTN Sports: Now, going back about 13 years ago, maybe a little bit, maybe a little bit more, give or take Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007, you had an outstanding season, really an outstanding high school career. I mean, does that does getting that column kind of match up to that news and being Gatorade Player of the Year?
Selvig: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, back then it was, you know, my dad really did a good job. He's my coach, he did a good job of keeping me grounded. And as far as you know, why you play the game. You know, it was never a thing. I never went out to play for awards or play for stats or anything like that and that was a really awesome deal. Just to be you know, kind of validated for for all the hard work and stuff like that. You know, and this I think the coaching side of it is it was a little bit more shocking, a little bit more surreal, just because how hard it is to get jobs and, just feel super fortunate and super grateful for the opportunity.
MTN Sports: From Glendive you moved to Missoula play for the Griz under Wayne Tinkle. Who is an obvious connection between you and Kurt Paulson, Paulson coaching under him at Oregon State. You playing for him. How has Tinkle influenced you not just as a player but also as a coach?
Selvig: Well, you know, definitely, I noticed a ton of the same verbiage that I use, even now. You know, I've, I've played for other coaches, and I worked under another coach and, and I still see a lot of the same things that coach Tinkle was preaching and talking about in the way the way he coached and the way he just connected with you off the floor. You know, I use a lot of that stuff. And the same goes for all the assistants and coaches that I've played or coached under. I've tried to just pull pieces from everybody. And you know, Coach Tinkle is definitely one of those guys, and funny enough, Kurt was actually our grad assistant when I was a player. So I've known Kurt for a long time, and it's a really cool connection to be able to now coach against him.
MTN Sport: Going from so -- you're playing in Missoula for the Griz and then you graduate, go to Germany play for the
Selvig: For the Oettinger Rockets.
MTN Sports: I was gonna say I'm gonna butcher that, I'm gonna butcher that completely. Um, so you, you get the opportunity to play professionally overseas. And that seems to be a relatively common thing for post-college players to do. What was your experience like playing in Germany for those years?
Selvig: You know, it was, it was awesome. I mean, end of the day, it was an awesome experience. You know, I didn't play as much as I'd like to. It didn't go, on the floor, as well as I would have liked, but the whole experience in general, I met, I met guys over there that I still talk to today. Just awesome people, you know, the community was just so supportive of the team and super friendly, super welcoming, and the whole thing, you know, really helped shape, just me as a person. You know, it's tough being away from your family for that long at a time. It's hard to be in a place where a lot of people don't speak English, and you kind of get to work through that. So it definitely helped me grow as a person, and I was just super thankful for that opportunity as well. I mean, I've just, I've just been really fortunate, you know, with a lot of different things. And that was definitely an experience that I treasure
MTN Sports Coming back from Germany. Did you take any time off from the game before you got into coaching or was it basically you finish up overseas, you come back, and was it right into it? Or was that, what was the timeline?
Selvig: So you know, I came back at the end of my second year over there, I got hurt. I had another ankle injury, and I wanted to keep playing. So you know, I kind of -- I tried to rehab that as best I could. saw some specialist tried to get it 100%. I ended up helping assist at Billings West, under Kelly Darragh, and, you know, helping him for half a season with their team. Then I was trying to go back overseas. I signed a contract in Denmark, and it just fell through towards the, you know, in the end of the fall, and I had already sat out for a season, so just was getting, it was dragging on, and I wasn't finding, you know, the right opportunity. So, I ended up going back to Missoula, just getting a job in town, and then I started connecting with some coaches that I played for Andy Hill, down at Utah, who was one of my assistants at Montana. Really, he was the connection to coach Hiatt at Tech. So it was probably, you know, year and a half, two years before, you know, from what I played to when I got back into it.
MTN Sports: You were an assistant at Billings West, and then you move on to Montana tech, being an assistant at a frontier conference school for the NAIA, and then moving to a head coaching position now. What are some of the key differences?
Selvig: As an assistant, you know, in my role at Montana tech, it was pretty much, you know, handling everything that goes along with the program, you know, coach Hiatt, and I thank him for it, really put a lot on my plate. And it was a really good experience to, to handle all of the recruiting, to handle all the travel, all of the preparation, all that kind of stuff that goes into just managing a team. He put a lot on me, because I think he saw that I could handle it. And that really prepared me for moving over to the next spot. And you know, the key difference from the assistant to the head coach, for me, the biggest struggle has just been, you know, getting my staff organized. Now I was good at you know, organizing myself, and now it's delegating some other things. And, and that's where it's been a little bit of a transition for me and, you know, that's something that I'm definitely trying to work on and get better at.
MTN Sports: That was actually gonna be my next question, was as an assistant, you had so much on your plate now as a head coach, do you still have all that on your plate while still trying to manage to manage a basketball team? Or how is that working out in your year?
Selvig: Yeah, you know, there's a lot more decisions that I have to make now. And there's, there's other stuff that goes along with being a head coach, as far as, you know, handling stuff with the athletic department, as far as, you know, working with it with the AD and things like that. You know, really making the decisions. But, you know, it's helped because the two assistants I got were just, they're younger guys, and they're just really hungry, to learn and do a good job, and they do a great job. So, they've really helped my transition by taking some things off of my plate, you know, moving forward. But yeah, you know, I'm still you know, at the start, I was stuck in that kind of assistant mindset. So I was worried about everything when I'm probably didn't have to worry about everything. And, you know, my two assistants really, really help me out.
MTN Sports: Now the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously playing a role in our daily lives. One of the sentiments that has been echoed to me across the last seven, eight months, is that people need to be flexible. How has that been the case for you guys?
Selvig: Yeah, definitely. It's been a big, a big thing where we tell our guys, you, you need to be able to manage the chaos, just mentally. There's going to be days where we don't have everybody in practice. There's going to be weeks where we don't play because games get moved. How can we stay focused mentally? There's, we're going to take days and, and you know, step back and not be so, you know, detail-oriented. We're just going to try and have some fun with it. But when we get into that game week, where we know we have a game, we have to be able to lock in and just flip that switch. And I know, you know, in the past coaches are always, ‘You can't flip the switch,’ but COVID is kind of making you have to do that. So, you know, we just keep telling our guys just to stay focused, and the teams that are going to win games this year, are the teams that are going to be able to handle that adversity on a weekly basis and stay focused.
MTN Sports: Given the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit so early in your head coaching career, do you think that this is effectively a test in terms of it's really hard now, but if you're able to get through this relatively unscathed, it should be relatively smooth sailing from here?
Selvig: Yeah, you know, I'm taking it day by day, you know, I'm not trying to look towards you know, next year or anything like that. We're just trying to get this group of guys the best experience they can have this year. We have four seniors, you know, they gave the year back to everybody. But that doesn't mean that, you know, these four seniors are going to want to come back there. They might graduate and want to move on with their lives. So, we want to make sure we give them the best experience we can as long as we're following the rules and doing everything that we're supposed to do. And our guys have been really focused. They've been great. I mean, I walked into a team that it was already set. I had none of these guys. I didn't recruit any of these guys. There was three returners that played minutes last year. So it's really a brand new group of guys coming together, and they've just been awesome. They've been, you know, exceeded my expectations of what I thought I was walking into, and they're just, they're super focused, and they're just a great group to be around.
MTN Sports: As a coach, what mark do you want to leave? Not just on a program, but on your players?
Selvig: Yeah, you know, I thought about that quite a bit. And I think it's when a guy leaves my program, I just want them to be able to say that that coach cared, he cared about him as a person. As a player, just as a student, everything. When a guy leaves our program, he felt like he was, you know, cared for. That's, that's really, what I felt like, you know, as a player at Montana. That's what I felt, you know, all the successful coaches I've ever been around. Were my uncle Robin, my dad, they all cared about, you know, their players as you know, players and people. And that's, that's kind of that's the mark I want to leave on each one of these players.
MTN Sports: Now, you mentioned it. Your dad, your uncle, coaching effectively runs in the family. Do you find yourself comparing yourself to them? Or is this something that you know, you've kind of set out to effectively blaze your own trail?
Selvig: Definitely blaze my own trail, you know, I'm not getting 900 wins. *chuckles* That's probably just not gonna happen. It's just, I just want to… they’re day to day, you know, what, how they carried themselves. How they treated people. That's, that's what I want to take from them. You know, records, whatever else, anything like that. That's, I don't think about any stuff like anything like that. It's one day at a time. How can we get better today? You know, how can I -- how can I make these players you know, turn -- if they come into practice having a bad day? How can I make that a good day for them? You know what I mean? That's, that's what I'm focused on is just the day to day process, you know, the week to week, that type of stuff.
MTN Sports: Making the move to North Dakota --I have to ask at least one personal question. It's just the way, that's just the way I roll. -- I mean, do you find yourself missing Montana? Or, I mean, is North Dakota sufficient enough?
Selvig: It's great. I love it. You know, I got a lot of family in North Dakota. My mom's from there. I was actually born in Minot. I don't have a problem with my wife's born and raised in Missoula. So she's getting used to it, but, without all the mountains, but I like it. I mean, my parents are, you know, 90 minutes away. You know, We had a couple weeks off I went over and did some hunting in Glendive and it's been fun. It's been fun to be back over in this area. And, you know, I don't think there's a bad place in Montana. I’m 90 minutes away if I need to get my Montana fix. I can buzz over real quick.