MISSOULA — Shannon Schweyen has been promoted to head coach of the Montana women’s basketball team that she played on and has helped coach for the past 24 seasons.
Athletic director Kent Haslam says Schweyen accepted the job Saturday and signed a three-year contract Monday. She takes over the program that Robin Selvig coached to 865 wins over 38 seasons.
Schweyen, who played as Shannon Cate from 1988-1992, was a two-time Big Sky Conference MVP. She said Wednesday that she feels fortunate to carry on the tradition Selvig established, including recruiting in-state players and focusing on defense.
Haslam says Schweyen wasn’t hired out of loyalty, but that she shared her vision for the program and earned the opportunity to coach the Lady Griz. Montana has two open assistant coaching positions.
Selvig went 865-286 over his career, the seventh-most wins in NCAA women’s basketball history. Over 38 years, Selvig’s teams produced 36 winning seasons and 31 20-win campaigns. Twenty-four of his teams won regular-season conference championships, 21 of them advanced to the NCAA tournament.
Schweyen joined the staff in 1992-93.
“I think it’s only fitting that someone within our program was the next head coach,” said Selvig. “Shannon has been a part of Lady Griz basketball for a long time. She was a great player and then a coach in a program that’s done pretty well over the years. I know the program will be in good hands.”
Schweyen was recruited to Montana out of Billings Central, where she was the USA Today Montana Player of the Year as a senior. She led the Lady Griz to four NCAA tournaments, including wins over Cal State Fullerton and Wisconsin, three regular-season Big Sky titles and a record of 103-18.
She was twice voted Big Sky MVP, was one of just 10 Division I players to be named a Kodak All-American as a senior and in 2014 was ranked No. 1 on the list of “25 Greatest Female Athletes” in Big Sky history, the only basketball player in the top four.
Following her playing career, Schweyen joined Montana’s coaching staff as a student assistant, at a time when it was just Selvig and Rocheleau. “I just looked at it as a way to stay in basketball,” said Schweyen, who was hired as Montana’s first No. 2 assistant prior to the next season.
“We went to the Final Four that year, and another coach inquired about hiring me. Rob thought we should try to create a spot to keep me here, so the second assistant position became official the next year.”
Montana’s success under Selvig began before Schweyen arrived as a player — the year before she joined the program, the Lady Griz went 28-2 — but she’s since been an integral part of keeping the wins, the championships and the national tournament appearances coming.
Ann Lake, Greta Koss, Skyla Sisco, Linda Weyler, Brooklynn Lorenzen, Hollie Tyler, Mandy Morales, Katie Baker and Kellie Cole-Rubel have all been voted Big Sky Conference MVP since Schweyen joined the staff. Montana’s last four teams have won 24, 23, 24 and 20 games.
“Most jobs come open because teams have been losing and things haven’t been going well. Things aren’t broken here,” said Schweyen. “It’s not like I’m taking over a program that has a lot of things wrong with it. That’s because Rob has done such a great job for so long.
“Being the head coach is going to be a learning experience for me, but I’m excited.”
Schweyen will develop her own coaching style, but she intends to keep the bedrock principles of the program in place. Selvig built his program largely on the talent of Montana kids — which is part of the reason for the team’s loyal following year after year — and by focusing on defense. That won’t change.
“Recruiting Montana kids will still be a priority for us,” said Schweyen, who inherits a team with seven in-state players. “I hope kids will still grow up wanting to be Lady Griz.
“And I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships. When kids buy into playing defense, good things happen. I want that to continue to be a mainstay of the program.”
To Lady Griz fans, who’ve grown accustomed to leaving Dahlberg Arena following another Montana victory, sideline antics are mostly secondary to what’s happening on the court. That’s where Schweyen hopes there will be the fewest changes of all.
“We’ll do our best to keep winning championships,” she said.
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