MISSOULA — Nick Puckett felt like a deer in the headlights.
The senior UM J-School student — and Montana Kaimin sports reporter — didn't think Montana football's newest head coach Bobby Hauck would call upon him to ask the first question of Friday's press conference.
"I did not seriously expect him to have me ask the first question," Puckett said. " ... I was kind of caught off guard. I was mostly surprised more than anything."
There was a reason for that.
The last time Hauck coached at Montana, he and the Kaimin had a national news-worthy kerfuffle.
In 2009, two Grizzly football players were suspended for a game. And former Kaimin reporter — current Oregon Ducks beat writer for the Oregonian — Tyson Alger wanted to figure out why.
Rather than receiving a straightforward answer from Hauck, Alger, along with Roman Stubbs and Allison Maier of the Kaimin were stonewalled.
Eight years later, Hauck admitted he handled that situation poorly.
"I'm speaking from the heart here, I recognize we were not perfect," Hauck said. "At one point, we mismanaged, with major help from me, our relationship with the student newspaper for a period of time."
Alger watched the press conference on Friday, and said this past week has been an interesting one for him.
"This week, to be honest, has been a weird week. I've had multiple people call me up to try to ask me about what happened over the course of a few months 8 years ago and, to be honest, it's been a little surreal," Alger said. "I just didn't think this thing would come up again.
" ... Now we are here today. It really was a surreal moment watching him do the press conference this morning, just seeing him up there back in maroon. It definitely took me back a little bit to when we were in Missoula as 19-, 20-year-olds covering Bobby."
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Fellow former Kaimin reporter Bill Oram watched the press conference, too.
"I thought his press conference today was an important step," said Oram — currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for the Southern California News Group — in a phone call.
"He was contrite and charming. I thought he won the press conference, but I don't think that should surprise anybody. Bobby has always been good in that setting. ... I think what comes next is going to be more telling."
The Kaimin is ready to move on.
The incident happened eight years ago, back when the current Kaimin sports staffers were in middle school. Dozens of Kaimin reporters have been in and out since Hauck's last tenure in Missoula.
"It's important to touch on it and note that it happened but none of us here have any experience with Bobby Hauck, he doesn't have any experience with us," Kaimin sports editor Jackson Wagner said. "I don't see why we can't have a good relationship moving forward with him."
Wagner added: "It's weird being in the news, but it was cool hearing him say, 'I know I mismanaged that.' Just moving forward, it seems that he wants a fresh start, which is what we want as well ... I thought this gave the whole situation the closure that it needed. Hopefully it won't be a story moving forward and he can get to work and we can too."
Alger hopes for the same.
"I thought that was a good move by them to address that at the start," Alger said of the previous issues. "It seemed like Bobby was sincere about it. Eight years is a long time for people to change. I think they know that that was a big issue coming into this thing and it was nice to see them address that at the top."
He added: "Now it transitions into acting on what you say and if he's sincere about being open with the media and being transparent, having respect for what we do, I think it can be a good relationship in the future."