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Ex-Bobcat star Domako enjoys life in Missoula
Ex-Bobcat star Domako enjoys life in Missoula

MISSOULA - During his four-year basketball career at Montana State counted six wins in 10 tries against Montana among his highlights. He also was named the Big Sky Conference player of the week as a freshman after a 19-point effort against the Grizzlies.

At the other end of his memory spectrum was giving up 36 points to Montana star Larry Krystkowiak during Domako's sophomore season at MSU.

Domako played the 1984-88 seasons for the Bobcats under coach Stu Starner. Starner had moved to Bozeman from the University of Minnesota where he was an assistant coach who recruited - among other places - Domako's home state of Michigan.

Since his family was used to hunting and fishing and a general outdoor lifestyle the move to Bozeman turned out to be a great fit for him.

The 6-8 Domako used a patented corner jump shot to strike fear into opponents and parlayed that into a few more playing years in Europe and the Continental Basketball Association before he and his wife, Vicki - who played high school basketball in Laurel but not college ball - returned to Bozeman in 1993.

The two were married in 1988 right after the end of the school year and headed for France where Domako played for a year. After playing in the CBA and Belgium he decided it was time to return to school and complete a degree in computer science.

"It was not a star's professional basketball life, but it was fun," Domako recalled recently in his Blackfoot Communications office. "And you get to play for money."

Domako took a more relaxed approach to his education the second time around, completing his degree in 1996. He and Vicki moved to Portland, Ore., where he worked for a company called Techtronics.

Since his wife was from Laurel and he had established roots in the Treasure State the two looked for an opportunity to return to Montana. That came in 1998 when the couple moved back to Bozeman.

The opportunity to move to Missoula came in 2001 when Domako took a position with Blackfoot as a software development manager overseeing the writing of software used to run telephone companies.

The Grizzly-Bobcat rivalry notwithstanding Domako said he hopes to retire in Missoula.

"It's a great place to live," he said, despite feeling in 2001 that he couldn't believe he was moving here. "We really like Missoula. It's a little bit different atmosphere than Bozeman.

"Bozeman's grown up a lot, but I think Missoula's grown up a lot, too," Domako added.

The Domakos have two children - daughter Katie, 10, and son Ryan, 7. Tom spends some of his time coaching Katie's AAU basketball team. Both kids are in soccer and gymnastics.

Domako said his son actually got the "tall" genes from him. Ryan is only three inches shorter than his older sister.

"Maybe one of these days if Wayne's (Tinkle) still got the (UM) job he'll be recruiting him here in Missoula," Domako laughed.

Even though he had interest from other Division I schools Domako looked at Montana State as a place where he could play earlier in his career. He not only played, he wound up with 1,841 career points - third best in MSU history - and still holds the single-season scoring mark of 667 points set in 1987-88.

An all-around player, he also ranks in the top 10 in school history in assists, steals and rebounds.

Domako was named conference most valuable player following his senior season and led the Bobcats to league tournament and regular-season championships in 1986 and 1987, respectively. More importantly he believes he and his teammates played a key role in elevating the level of MSU basketball.

"Playing in the NCAA Tournament my sophomore year and … the NIT my junior year, those were big steps for the Bobcat basketball program," Domako noted.

The major recognition of his contribution to MSU athletics came in 2003 when he was named to the school's sports hall of fame.

"It was good for my kids … to see that their daddy did well … in college," Domako said. "They still get the added advantage (watching) the old DVDs and VHSs. But they just laugh at my shorts and my uniform and what I looked like.

"I don't think it really registers yet with them about the things I did back when I was younger."

Domako has connections to basketball at both MSU and UM. He's friends with head coach Brad Huse and MSU assistant and former player Danny Sprinkle as well as UM head coach Tinkle and assistant coach Nate Duchesne.

Current Bobcat football coach Mike Kramer was an assistant for MSU during Domako's playing days in Bozeman.

He makes it to Bozeman for several basketball games each season and, as a one-handicap golfer, he also will be expected to put together an MSU alumni golf event in Missoula this summer.

Domako also attends Grizzly basketball games occasionally, noting that it was strange going into Dahlberg Arena as a spectator rather than a player. He's concerned about how basketball attendance has fallen at both schools.

"I wish the … games were like when I played," Domako said. "I had never been in Dahlberg Arena without 10,000, 11,000 people in there. So the first time I went in there for a game and saw about 4,000 it was kind of different for me."

Domako isn't surprised to see Krystkowiak and Tinkle in the coaching profession and he's enjoyed watching their careers develop.

"It's always an advantage to be a good basketball player, understand the game, and then hopefully you can take that back and teach it to the kids that you're coaching today," Domako said.

"I think they're both really good at teaching kids how to play," he went on. "It's a little bit of a different era, but a lot of basketball stays the same. I think both of them are going to do well."

Domako thinks Griz fans need to cut Tinkle a little slack.

"It's a little bit different going from an assistant to a head coaching job," he said. "Dealing with young kids. Everyone remembers what they were like when they were 19, 20 years old."

Domako still plays basketball in the Ray Bryant Over-30 League even though he thinks the years of wear and tear from his earlier days are starting to catch up to him physically. That has steered him, "like a lot of retired basketball players," toward the sport of golf.

Along with that he finds enjoyment - although not without some frustration - coaching his daughter and other young players. He said it's a matter of coaching within the confines of what kids that age are physically able to handle.

"I'm looking forward to coaching them as they get older," Domako said. "I think the hardest thing's gonna be - as they get older if they still continue to play - letting other coaches coach 'em cause I'm gonna … have my opinions about what should be going on."

As for golf, Domako got more serious about the game while he was playing pro basketball. Summers off gave him an opportunity to hone his skills, and he likes the individual aspect of the sport.

"When you walk off the golf course you can't turn around and go 'if that guy had passed me the ball a couple more times I might of hit a couple more jumpers,'" he said. "You walk off, it's all you. I missed that four-foot putt. No one else hit that drive (into) the woods."

This time of year Domako pays attention to March Madness and especially enjoys the opportunity for so-called mid-major schools to make their mark. He's adamantly opposed to Bobby Knight's idea that the tournament should be cut back to 32 teams instead of the current 65, with no automatic berths.

"If anything I think it should go the other way," Domako said. "I think they should make it up to 128. Give the … mid-majors and the smaller teams an opportunity to play the big boys."

Click here to listen to Bill Schwanke's complete interview with Tom Domako.

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