By Ryan Divish
One school's mistake is another school's windfall.
Montana State University-Northern head basketball coach Shawn Huse could have very easily been coming into this weekend as the head coach of the Montana Tech Orediggers.
Huse, a former player and assistant coach for the Diggers, was a finalist for the head coaching position that opened after Rick Dessing, Huse's former coach and mentor, resigned during midseason last year.
Dessing was replaced by then assistant coach Mike Bauer as the interim head coach, who finished out the season. But the job was open to all candidates.
Huse, who was an assistant coach at Nebraska-Kearney at the time, jumped at the opportunity to coach at his alma mater.
Along with Bauer and Miles City head coach Shawn Neary, Huse traveled to Butte for an interview.
Many people familiar with the Frontier Conference felt that Huse was the perfect fit for Tech.
As a player for the Diggers, Huse was a part of a conference championship, was twice named an all-conference performer and was named the Frontier's most valuable player during the 1994-95 season.
As an assistant coach under Dessing, he was part of back-to-back championships and NAIA national tournament appearances.
He was a key part of Tech's prominence in the early '90s and seemed like the logical choice to return it to prominence this year. However, when it comes to athletic directors, university presidents and job searches, logic seems to be something that isn't always used.
Instead of choosing Huse, Tech decided to go with Bauer instead, saying that his performance as the interim head coach was the deciding factor.
It was a fair enough explanation for hiring Bauer. Still, many an eyebrow was raised at the hiring.
As strong as the ties are in the Frontier, to look past one of your own, especially one as qualified as Huse, was surprising.
Fortunately for Northern, a few weeks later Huse was in Havre interviewing for the job left vacant by the resignation of Brian Harrell.
Northern wasn't about to make the mistake Tech made and hired Huse a week later.
Huse traded in his Digger copper and green for Northern maroon and gold and hasn't looked back.
He, along with Skylights head coach Mike Erickson, have begun the painstaking process of returning the Northern basketball programs to prominence. Huse will be the first to admit it won't happen overnight. It takes time. You will certainly lose a few battles before winning the war.
However, one battle that both Huse and Erickson have won is putting a team on the floor that plays unselfishly, competitively and with sportsmanship.
In recent years, Northern teams have been lacking in all three areas. They have been immensely talented yet lacked the cohesiveness and unity to really succeed in the Frontier.
This year's teams are nowhere near as talented as teams in the past. However they play hard all the time. Talent can you win some games, but team play will win you a lot more.
It's this type of attitude that Huse hopes that fans will see as the Frontier season gets into full swing with UM-Western and his old school coming to town this weekend.
Huse will never admit that he's bitter at his old school. He isn't that type of person.
But to be shunned by a place you spent the better part of seven years giving your heart and soul to certainly has to sting your sense of loyalty.
The game with Tech will certainly bring a myriad of emotions. Although he'll never admit it to anyone, not even his players, he had to have circled that first game with Tech on his mental calendar.
Revenge? Maybe. Who wouldn't want to show all those people at Tech the mistake they made. But Huse will never say he wants to pummel his old school. He talks of them as just another team and it's just another game.
But if you look a little deeper and watch a little closer, you know that the game means more than that. Huse is too much of competitor to treat it as just another game.
Still, Huse won't admit to wanting to win one game more than another. He won't say that his alma mater made a mistake in not hiring him.
But what he will say is how happy he is at Northern and how he can see himself here for quite awhile.
He has a new team now. He will always be a Digger on some level, but now he is a Light, through and through.
Huse has battles to fight, a war to win and a program to restore.
Montana Tech may have made a mistake not hiring Huse, but it was a mistake that worked out perfectly for MSU-Northern.