Head coach Josh Downey is leaving Bigfork after an undefeated championship season to take over Whitefish’s boys basketball program.
Downey, a 1999 Bigfork graduate who rejoined his alma mater as coach and activities director a year ago, is moving up the road to replace Mark Casazza, who stepped down as Whitefish’s head coach in March.
The Vikings went 26-0 and captured the school’s first state championship in Downey’s one and only season at the helm.
The Bulldogs were 11-10 last season and 55-47 overall in five seasons under Casazza.
A search committee interviewed four finalists among more than nine applicants and decided to offer Downey the job late Wednesday, according to Whitefish Activities Director Aric Harris.
“We’re really excited about him coming to Whitefish. Obviously he brings a lot of experience. I know our kids are really excited,” Harris said. “What he did at Bigfork was pretty special.”
Downey said that Whitefish “seemed like the right fit for my family.”
“It’s more a family decision than any other factor,” he said. “It’s what is best for the family. What’s going to be hard is leaving the kids. That’s definitely the hardest part.”
Downey said he was spread very thin working as both coach and activities director and wanted to find a position that would allow him to spend more time with his wife and kids.
“I didn’t have a life being the head coach and being the activities director,” he said. “That’s not healthy. We needed to get away from that.”
And despite last season being highly successful, he described it as tough and stressful.
Whitefish administrators are looking into a possible teaching position at the high school for Downey, who has previously taught PE.
“We anticipate utilizing him in some capacity at the high school, we’re just not sure what our needs are at the moment,” Harris said.
Downey said he applied for the vacant job “at the last minute” and had been in discussions in recent months about the opening.
Coaching in Whitefish has been a longtime goal of his, he said, and he narrowly missed out on the Bulldogs’ head coaching position when it became vacant in 2006.
“At that time I was just devastated that I didn’t get it. I wanted to be there so bad. I like to think it was a kind of meant to be that I didn’t get it because I wouldn’t have been that good of a coach,” he said. “I came back (to the Flathead Valley) after eight years with more experience. Hopefully now it’s a deal where we’re there forever.”
Downey said he will finish out the spring as Bigfork’s activities director.
Bigfork will begin the search for the school’s fifth head coach since 2008 next week, according to administrators.
Downey took over the basketball program and activities director position at the high school last year after Kurt Paulson accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Montana. Downey played for the Vikings and went on to play at Concordia University. After college he had multiple coaching stints, including as a graduate assistant under Mark Few at Gonzaga during the team’s high-profile 2005-06 season with Adam Morrison. He also coached high school in Washington and Idaho before returning to his hometown.
Downey said he feels confident about the Whitefish boys basketball program, pointing to a pool of talented young players and the community’s strong youth programs.
“I think the future is bright,” he said.
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