The University of Montana has gone outside the Montana Lady Griz family to hire its newest women’s basketball coach.
Brian Holsinger, who has spent 13 seasons in the Pac-12 and has more than two decades of college coaching experience, has been named to lead the program. He succeeds Mike Petrino, who held the job on an interim basis for one season.
Holsinger, who was the head coach at Montana Tech for two seasons (2005-07) before moving on to an assistant position at Washington State (2007-15), has spent the last five seasons at Oregon State, which has become a national power under coach Scott Rueck. Former Lady Griz standout Katie Baker is also an Oregon State assistant and she, like Holsinger, expressed interest in the Lady Griz head coaching post.
Holsinger signed a four-year contract on Monday night, which needs to be approved by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
“I want to first thank president Bodnar, athletic director Kent Haslam and the members of the search committee for this amazing opportunity,” Holsinger said in a press release. “I am deeply honored, humbled and grateful to be the next head coach of the Lady Griz.
“This program is steeped in tradition, and I am well aware of what this program not only means to the University of Montana but also to the state. I am excited to get to work and build a team of young women that will grow in all aspects of their lives and continue the tradition of a program that this community and state will be proud of.”
Holsinger is just the fourth coach of the Lady Griz since they became an intercollegiate athletics program in the late 70s.
Robin Selvig (1978-16) led the program for 38 years and won 865 games. He was followed by Shannon Schweyen (2016-20) and Petrino.
The position was opened on March 15 and underwent a national search. Four finalists were brought to campus for interviews last week.
“Brian rose to the top with his experience, his record of success and his deep ties to the Northwest,” Haslam said. “He understands the history and pride of the Lady Griz and knows how important the program is to this university and this community. I’m excited for him to get going and building the Lady Griz to what we expect it to be.”
Selvig built a program at Montana that produced 36 winning seasons over 38 years, 31 20-win seasons, 24 conference championships and made 21 NCAA tournament appearances.
“If that sort of legacy doesn’t scare you a little bit, you’re not human, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. I think it’s a good thing. It’s healthy, it drives you,” said Holsinger. “It makes you want to do great things.
“Once this gets announced, he will be the first phone call I make. I have the utmost respect for him and who he is and what he’s done. Any advice I can get from him will be welcomed.”
The coming season won’t be Holsinger’s first time coaching in Dahlberg Arena. He was in his first year as a Division I assistant, in 2007-08, when Washington State traveled to Missoula.
Even though it was a Tuesday night in mid-December, the game drew more than 3,100 fans. Montana won 74-54.
Washington State returned at the end of the 2013-14 season for a first-round WNIT game. Montana, down its point guard who suffered a knee injury in the Big Sky championship game, won 90-78.
“It was an intimidating, tough place. Then you went against Robin-coached teams and they were disciplined, they played together and they were tough,” said Holsinger. “Those experiences helped me realize how special of a place this is.
“I’m thrilled. It’s a huge honor to be the coach of the Lady Griz. There are very few programs that have that unique brand, and it’s because of Robin Selvig.”
Holsinger played one season of college basketball at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., before finishing his dual degrees in biology and chemistry from Western Washington in 1999.
His first college coaching job came shortly thereafter, at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, Calif., where he worked from 1999 to 2005. He was the head coach at Montana Tech in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
“That was the first time I got to know Lady Griz basketball and what it meant to the state,” said Holsinger.
He joined June Daugherty’s staff at Washington State the next season and spent eight years in Pullman. He was hired by Rueck at Oregon State shortly after the Beavers had gone to the Final Four at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Oregon State won 31 games in Holsinger’s first year in Corvallis and won its third consecutive Pac-12 title. The Beavers advanced to the NCAA tournament each season Holsinger was on staff, minus 2019-20 when the tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.
Oregon State reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last month before falling to Final Four-qualifier South Carolina.
“I am excited for Brian in this new opportunity,” said Rueck. “I am grateful for all he has contributed to our program over the last five years at Oregon State. He brought great energy, positivity, expertise, community and a warm sense of hospitality.”
Holsinger and his wife, Stacey, have two daughters, Brooklyn (10) and Quinn (8), and a son, Kellen (6).
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