Editor's note: The University of Montana will celebrate Robin Selvig Day as part of a Lady Griz home basketball game Saturday against Sacramento State. Selvig left an enduring legacy that the Missoulian will examine in a two-part series starting today. Look for Part II in Tuesday's sports section.
Robin Selvig made dreams come true for hard-working Montana girls.
It was always a point of emphasis for the Outlook native, who cleaned out his desk at the end of August after 38 years as head coach of the Lady Griz basketball team.
More than words, Selvig conveyed he was a Montanan to the core by putting his faith in Treasure State high school players. They paid him back with wins and golden, enduring memories.
"Montana young ladies that were Division I players, we wanted them here," he told the Missoulian. "Our program was built on a nucleus of Montana kids.
"They're no more special to me than the out-of-state kids we had, but we took a lot of pride in the fact that Montana produced so many. The high school coaches in this state are really good and the level of play of Montana(-raised) women's basketball players is really good per capita – a lot of really good Division I players."
Were there times when he stuck his neck out for Treasure Staters? Perhaps a little.
But Selvig would never admit it.
"We were going to get the best players we could, but I never wanted to miss on a Montana kid," he offered. "And they were all good. Giving them an opportunity meant something to me."
The Lady Griz all-time scoring list is a good indication of how much impact Treasure Staters have had on Selvig's uncanny success (865 wins). The top two – Shannon (Cate) Schweyen and Mandy Morales – both hail from Montana. So does No. 4 on the list, Lisa (McLeod) Tinkle. And No. 6, Katie Edwards.
Selvig is equally proud of the Native American players he recruited. Players like Malia Kipp, Dana Conway, Tam Guardipee and, most recently, Shanae Gilham.
The amiable coach made every effort to get Treasure State Native American standouts in maroon and silver. His commitment landed him a spot in the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame back in 2008.
"We have had a lot of Native American players, more than any other place," he noted. "I wouldn't recruit them if they weren't good enough. If they were, I don't know if you'd call it an obligation, but I definitely wanted to give them an opportunity.
"I know the history of Native Americans in this state and the reservations and all those things. I've never regretted it. I've got some great friends that played for me, great kids, great people that were successful Lady Griz athletes that are Native Americans. That was something I felt if they had the talent, they deserved the opportunity. They've been great Lady Griz."
Selvig feels fortunate to have had so many quality human beings carry the torch for his program. He feels just as good about the fact most of them come back to visit and cheer for their successors, still compelled to stay connected to the Lady Griz family.
"There's nothing that means more to me," he said. "They're what made this program. The game is about the players and the team.
"I've heard from many, many, many, and it's what really makes this rewarding for me. They have a bond, which is kind of neat. We've had some get-togethers and we're going to have more. I'm sure there will be a bunch of them. There's players that played for me 30-some years ago that are now friends with ones that played for me three years ago. They share some common history and they share some stories about me," he said with a laugh.
Selvig doesn't use Facebook or Twitter, so he keeps up with the news on his former players by word of mouth. And there's excitement in his voice when he informs you that, for example, one of his former players was recently married.
According to Selvig, that player is Montana native Britney Lohman, who is now a highly successful businesswoman in Seattle. She's not the only one who used her Lady Griz experience as a springboard to even more success in the real world.
"To a person they were really good people, really good students and representatives of this university and the state," he said of his former players. "That's why we won a lot of games. I had good players and good people."