It's hard to say which trait is more endearing in Robin Selvig -- his compassion or comedic timing.
Both were on full display in his retirement press conference Thursday at the Adams Center. One minute the 38-year Montana women's basketball coach was struggling to make his way through an emotional sentence with his voice cracking, the next he had a crowd of onlookers in stitches.
"I really have no chance of thanking all the people that deserve to be thanked," he said to a group that included media, Grizzly coaches and administrators, former Lady Griz players and fans.
"It's been 38 years, so many people. I know I need to thank No. 1 every young woman that ever put on the Lady Griz jersey and ran out on that floor for 38 years. There's no one game I don't think they gave me all that they had. We didn't always win, didn't always play great, but it wasn't for lack of effort. And I owe a lot to my assistants. I know what I'm going through right now. It's not easy."
So consumed was Selvig with this week's difficult decision that he forgot something important -- or so he claimed in a line that had the crowd laughing out loud.
"Julie said, 'Now did you tell your wife what time the press conference is?' Selvig shared, referring to Julie Tonkin, program coordinator for the UM women's and men's basketball teams. "I said, 'Oh my God, I didn't tell her I was retiring!'
"Anyway, she knows. Great mother, great teacher -- she's got plenty of her own success. It's too bad I got my picture in the paper. It would be nice if there was pictures of the great moms and the great teachers in the paper sometime. We're just winning basketball games and all of a sudden we're special."
Don't get the wrong idea. Even with 865 wins, Selvig never really considered himself any more special than the next guy.
"McCalle (Feller) had a funny video she put together (in March) and somehow I ended up saying, 'Well I don't think it's how many wins you get that gets you into heaven,'" Selvig said. "That really has nothing to do with anything. Hopefully it helps, but I don't think so."
Selvig has always been mindful to share the credit for his team's success with assistant coaches Shannon Schweyen, Trish Duce and Sonya Stokken. Annette Rocheleau and trainer Karla Judge have also been integral in that role.
In March, when Selvig completed his final season and was pondering retirement, he was up front with his assistants from the start. Likewise, he's tried to be as honest as he can with his players.
"I'm the one that's going to miss out not finishing with these seniors," he said "The five new freshmen, you feel a little guilty. You recruit, fired up to get them here, and I didn't know I was going to be done. I knew I'd be done sometime but I've got to sit down and tell them 'I'm not going to coach next year' and I told them why. They're going to have a good coach."
When his players talk about him, the word loyalty is often used to describe Selvig. At a time when coaches job-hop with regularity, it's hard to believe anyone as successful as Selvig could stay at the same place 38 years.
"This is a great place to be, to raise a family," he said. "I'm a Montana guy. I'm proud. I don't want to live in a big city, No. 1."
Selvig has a hard time pinning down one coaching moment as his favorite. In fact, there were some moments following defeats he considers as memorable as the triumphs.
"We won some games in the NCAA (tournament) on the road, at Wisconsin, but I don't remember that much," he said. "I remember sitting in the locker rooms after a couple losses that are my most special memories.
"We lost to Stanford by one or something. The ladies just played their hearts out. Sitting in that locker room is as special as anything. Same thing as that (Louisiana) Tech game here. We had a really good chance to win. My ladies just played like crazy. (Louisiana Tech's) coach told me congrats and I'm never coming back here. Your girls play too hard and too well."
That said, it's the time in between games that Selvig will miss just as much as the games.
"I'm going to miss riding on the bus with them," he started, "walking out to practice with them, laughing with them, sharing their lives with them, battling in the games and going in and saying, 'Sorry I was so wacko.'
"But they know. You're going through it together. I've got lifetime friends I've coached."
Selvig doesn't really like the term legend. It's been used this week and at times in the past to describe the coach.
"I don't know what that is," he said. "First of all I think you're supposed to be dead. I'm proud to be a part of what's happened here. All I did was go to work every day ... Now I'm going to do something else. Who knows what's ahead?"
Selvig is pretty sure he's made the right decision.
"Hopefully I don't wake up in a couple of weeks and wonder what in the heck did I do?" he joked. "I won't. This was well thought through."