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Baucus works for tax-cut compromise with Republicans
Baucus works for tax-cut compromise with Republicans

SEELEY LAKE - The days are getting longer as summer nears, but the days are getting shorter for Kim Haines, the only principal Seeley-Swan High School has ever known.

The 67-year-old Haines will pull the plug, at least on his administrative duties at the Missoula County Public Schools facility, on July 1 after a 37-year ride.

Stepping down, he said, will allow him to pursue any coaching opportunity that might come his way.

The second winningest basketball coach in Montana prep history, Haines, because of a new MCPS policy, last fall was forced to choose between coaching and being an administrator. He gave up coaching.

"I love coaching. But I love being an educator too, so it was a pretty clear choice," he told the Missoulian at that time.

But after a season away from the sidelines, Haines decided to retire as principal, then apply - where is not yet known - to coach boys' basketball.

"It wasn't really the coaching (that I missed), it was the relationship that goes on with the kids," he said Wednesday, sitting casually in a small office that is littered with years of memories.

"I don't know how it's going to work, but I'm going to try to get back into coaching," said Haines, whose 553 victories are just five behind Don Peterson, who coached at six different schools.

"I think I've got four, five or six years in coaching if I want to do it," he said.

Haines, with 18 championships in 36 years, already has racked up more victories at a single school than any coach in Montana history.

Being forced to pick between the administrative and coaching positions was a factor in his decision to retire, he said.

"It had something to do with it (but) … there's no one thing," said Haines. "In a sense, I guess, to coach, I had to retire."

A 1960 Northern Montana College graduate, Haines obtained a master's of arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa before being hired over the telephone for the Seeley-Swan position and being assured he could be the head coach of every sport.

He coached every Blackhawk sport except wrestling, which he gladly handed off the first year.

Back then, "I had a lot of energy," he said, remembering with amusement how he coached, taught math and science classes, then cleaned the school for the next day's activities.

Haines was inducted into the Montana Coach's Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 1998, was enshrined in the Northern Branch of the Montana State University's Hall of Fame.

Not driving up to the picturesque school in the woods on the outskirts of Seeley Lake is going to be difficult, he said.

"I enjoy working with kids," said Haines, but, "There's a time you need to do something different."

"I love the community and I'm proud of the kids in this school," he said. "It's a wonderful place and a good school."

Haines has seen many changes in the years he's been at the school.

He believes there are more drugs around than ever before. Also, youngsters used to be physically fit because of the everyday home activities they participated in, but now have to be reconditioned away from the couch.

Haines is a firm believer in youth participation, be it in sports or other extracurricular activities, as well as a balance between outside activities and academics.

He coached three of his own kids through their high school years.

"I enjoyed it," said Haines, who has been married to wife, Zelda, for 41 years.

"I was a little harder on them than the other people because I wanted to make sure that they earned their place," he said. "There's nobody I'd rather be around than my children."

He counts his undefeated boys basketball team in 1968 as one of the high points of his career.

In addition to his high school duties, Haines is well known in national track circles. Last year, he ran unsuccessfully for president of USA Track. He has been the chairman of youth athletics, and a member of the executive committee and board of directors.

In July he'll take a group of USA athletes to Hungary to compete.

The focus of Haines' tenure is fashioned in the school's mission statement: "Striving for excellence and equity." That applies to technological advances as well as academics and athletics.

"I thought we had a good balance here. We had great staffs," he said. "We were the leaders in equity for coaches' pay in the state. … It was probably one of the first schools in Montana to pay the girls' coach the same as the boys' coach."

But Haines is aware that Seeley-Swan had advantages, being part of Missoula County's public schools system that includes Sentinel, Big Sky and Hellgate high schools.

"We have the benefit of the purchasing power of a large district and the salary schedule of a large district," he said. "This school wouldn't be anything like it is if it wasn't connected with the larger picture."

The school has had its share of tragedy, too. The murder of Seeley Lake elementary school teacher Cliff Nelson in 1996 was hard on the students, the faculty and the community, said Haines.

Haines was careful not to pass along too much advice to his successor, Tony Gallegos, who is an administrators at Sentinel High School this year.

"They're going to have to be very flexible. This is a complex job. You're wearing a lot of hats," he said. "I think it's going to be a real challenge."

Reporter Mick Holien can be reached at 523-5262 or at mholien@missoulian.com.

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