Ross Gustafson was selected to be the new head basketball coach at Flathead High School, administrators announced Friday morning.
Flathead Activities Director Bryce Wilson said Gustafson, an assistant the past three seasons, was chosen for the top job among three finalists and will be recommended to the school board for an official hire.
“Ross is passionate about kids, boys’ basketball, and has a strong desire to lead the Flathead Braves Basketball program with positive energy,” Wilson stated. “He outlined his vision during the interview and provided a comprehensive portfolio with details for leading the program. Gustafson is also part of the football coaching staff at FHS. He has seen the effects of positive culture and climate in a ‘AA’ sports program and is excited to bring this synergy to the Braves basketball program.”
A Cut Bank native, Gustafson was a three-year starter for the Wolves and played basketball at Carroll College in Helena. He served as an assistant coach at Missoula Hellgate before moving to Kalispell, where he is a math teacher at Flathead and has served as an assistant for the basketball program the past three seasons.
He replaces Fred Febach, who resigned after 12 seasons last month.
“I’m really excited to be able to be at Flathead. I think great things are happening here,” Gustafson said.
“I built some good relationships with the current players and I’m just excited that I get to work with them as the head coach now.”
Gustafson, 33, said he is confident that the Braves will be competitive this season.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people in the state,” he said. “I haven’t set any win-loss goals but every game we will be prepared and we’ll come out and execute.”
Although the first day of practice is already less than a month away, Gustafson said he is ready to take over leading the program.
“I’m not nervous. I know there’s a lot of work in the next month. I’ve been preparing for this as long as I’ve been coaching,” he said. “For six years now, I’ve been thinking about ideas, if I was the head coach these are the things I’d want to do.”
As far as role models go, Gustafson credited his high school football and basketball coaches, Ron Kowalski and Brian Kavanagh, respectively, as having been great influences, as well as Gary Turcott, the longtime basketball coach at Carroll College, and Jeff and Eric Hays at Hellgate.
“They all taught me what it takes to have a successful program,” Gustafson said.
Gustafson emerged as the top choice out of 10 overall applicants and two other finalists. An interview committee met with the finalists Oct. 22. The other two finalists were Skip Schroeder and Jeff Epperly.
The interview committee that vetted candidates included Wilson, Peter Fusaro, Flathead’s principal, Dr. Kim Stimpson, a parent of a former Brave player, Mary Ruby, a member of the school board, and Kyle Samson, Flathead’s head football coach.
Flathead went 4-17 last year and missed out on the Class AA playoffs. In 12 seasons under Febach, the Braves were 113-135 with five state tournament appearances. The team placed second in 2012 as a No. 3 seed from the West after losing to top-ranked Billings West in the championship game, 61-48.
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