How do you leave a voicemail for a future Hall of Famer? How do you sum up the overwhelming pride, gratitude, joy, sadness and sentiment in a rushed 45-second, tear-muffled message? How do you formulate the words to do him justice? Among the hundreds of well-wishes and meaningful voicemails already clogging up his phone, how do you say that which hasn’t already been said? Luckily, I didn’t have to figure it out – because Robin Selvig picked up.
That’s what Selvig has been doing for the past 64 years. He’s been picking up. Picking up the lives of young women; picking up the hearts and souls of Griz fans; picking up the community of Missoula, the state of Montana, and picking up the reputation of college women’s basketball across the nation. Thirty eight years ago, Coach Selvig managed to take a highly unlikely program, using unlikely unranked girls, to reach vastly unlikely heights.
What is success? An 865-286 record? I mean, sure, that’s a start. But take a deep look at the hearts of 600-some girls who suited up and went to bat for him, and you’ll find a much more profound definition of success. It becomes bigger than basketball the moment you realize that the man hollering and ranting from the sidelines actually cared more about your development as a person than your ability to make a turnaround jump shot. Where he demanded your utmost, he empowered your game. Where he challenged you, he believed in you. And the grief he harbored when you lost paled in comparison to the elevation and delight he showed when you won. Where Selvig walked, he loved.
I’ll never forget the last day of Lady Griz Cage Camp my senior year of high school. Me, an unlikely girl from small-town Idaho, walking out to my car accompanied by legendary head Coach Robin Selvig, carrying my bags. Before saying goodbye, he offered me a scholarship, and then proceeded to give me a hug and instructions to be sure and say hello to my folks for him. That day changed my life. And while I’ve taken my fair share of tirades from Selvig for my lack of defense, messing up the play, being the best player on the other team, not playing defense – again, dribbling at any point in time, more bad defense, not realizing we had a game going on, and many, many more things (all well-deserved at the time; I just didn’t realize it) – I would run through a wall for that man. We all would. Because we weren’t just meal tickets to championships or more money or the next job or final fours. We were family. And at the end of the day, when the confetti has finally settled, the fireworks have faded, the crowd has left and the years have passed, he’d do the least for us – he’d pick up the phone.
Rob, I am but one among thousands whose world will forever be a little different because of four years spent with and molded by you. Two Big Sky Conference Championships and NCAA appearances are far more than the majority of college athletes will ever be able to put on a resumé. But the value of picking up those trophies, hand-in-hand beside you, are nickels and dimes compared to the weight of you even just taking the time and picking up the phone. Thank you.