Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Don Holst didn't want to be sitting in Missoula 10 years from now living with regret. After being unceremoniously fired after the 2002 season as the head coach of the University of Montana men's basketball coach, Holst has returned to the college basketball coaching world, accepting an assistant coaching position at Utah State on Tuesday, rejoining Aggies' head coach and former mentor Stew Morrill.
"Don Holst is an exciting addition to our coaching staff," said Morrill in a press release. "I am obviously very comfortable with Don, and our past association gives him a jump start in terms of knowing what is expected. Having been a head coach, Don is very familiar with every aspect of Division I basketball."
After working for an insurance company in Missoula the past three years, Holst couldn't tune out the siren's call of coaching.
"I've asked myself every day for the past three years why I want to get back into coaching," he said in a phone interview. "The big reason is that I didn't want to be sitting around 10 years from now wondering why I didn't take the opportunity."
Holst began his 15-year career with Grizzlies in 1988, serving as Morrill's assistant for the first four years. He then was an assistant for seven years for Blaine Taylor. Holst was elevated to the top job in 1999 after coaching a season on an interim basis.
He was fired by then UM's athletics director Wayne Hogan, despite winning the 2002 Big Sky Conference tournament and taking Montana to the NCAA Tournament. Holst's teams had a 57-56 record over four seasons with a regular season and tournament title.
Prior to his 15-year tenure at Montana, Holst began his coaching career in Montana at the high school level as he was the head coach at Ennis High School from 1976-78. Holst was then the head coach at Harlowton High School from 1978-81 before becoming the head coach at Florence High School from 1981-87. In his 12 years as a high school coach, Holst's teams won five conference championships and two district championships.
"There are a lot of positives and negatives in the coaching business, and I'm a testament to both," he said. "But this was an opportunity that I felt I needed to pursue."
The opportunity to work with the man who gave him his start in college coaching was something he couldn't pass up. Holst went to Logan, Utah a few weeks back to visit the campus and met with the staff. He found it be a perfect fit.
"I get a chance to work for a person who helped nurture me in the coaching profession," Holst said. "It's something where I can go in and feel comfortable because I know what Stew is all about. It doesn't hurt that they have a great program."
Utah State was 24-8 this last season and qualified for the NCAA tournament. The Aggies lost to Arizona 66-53 in the first round. In seven season, Morrill has guided the Aggies to a 167-54 record.
Holst said his responsibilities will vary, but recruiting and game preparation will be a part of them.
"I've already contacted some of my old recruiting contacts," he said. "Having been a head coach will help. I never burnt any bridges when I was at Montana. The program had good character with our players and it should give me an advantage in recruiting."
It will only help the Aggies, who feature a roster with 12 upperclassmen.
"Don has great people skills and relates well to everyone he comes in contact with," Morrill said. "He's one of those guys you enjoy seeing every day. I am confident he will make significant contributions to Utah State Basketball.
Holst is a 1975 graduate of Northern Montana College where he earned bachelor's degrees in history and English.