Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Over the next three days, the Montana State University-Northern campus will be busy with candidates for two major job openings in Northern's athletics department.
For the women's basketball head coaching position, two finalists have been chosen from a group of more than 30 applicants. Finalist Bill Wilson will be in town today to meet with the community and search committee members, according to athletics director Byron Ophus, who is heading the search committee.
An hour-long public forum will be held at 2 p.m. in Donaldson Commons, with Wilson's formal interview with the search committee starting at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend the public forum and meet with Wilson.
"We're hoping to find out what it is the fans are looking for in a head coach," Ophus said. "When you have these openings, you need to be cognizant of what the fans want and expect in a head coach."
Wilson spent the last nine seasons as the head women's coach at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. During his tenure with UIU, he set the school record with most coaching wins and was named the Iowa Conference and WBCA District Eight coach of the year in 2002.
"Bill really has a wealth of head coaching experience at a smaller college like Northern," Ophus said. "It's definitely something that we liked to see."
Prior to Wilson's appointment as the head coach, he served as an assistant coach at UIU for one season. Before moving to Iowa, Wilson was also an assistant women's basketball coach at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania for one season and an assistant coach with the Slippery Rock men's program for four seasons.
Besides basketball, Wilson was the head tennis coach at UIU for five years and spent two years as the head women's golf coach.
Northern fans may remember Wilson from the previous search for a women's head coach. He was a finalist for the Skylight job in 2002.
The other finalist for the Skylight job is a name people familiar with the Frontier Conference should recognize. Rocky Mountain College assistant coach and head junior varsity coach Chris Mouat will be in Havre on Wednesday to go through his interview process.
Mouat, a Helena native and graduate of Helena High School, has been with Rocky since 2003, where his duties have included on-court instruction, scouting, recruiting, game management, and overseeing the entire junior varsity program. Rocky's JV team plays between 18 and 20 games a year against junior varsity teams and junior college teams from Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. He also serves as the school's sports information director and assistant athletics director.
"Chris doesn't have quite the head coaching experience that Bill does, but he is very familiar with the state of Montana and particularly the Frontier Conference," Ophus said.
Mouat began his coaching career as an assistant coach in the Helena High boys and girls basketball programs in 1993. He spent five seasons coaching in the boys program and four in the girls program. During his time at Helena High, the Bengal boys finished second at the State AA tournament twice, and the girls won the AA title in 1997.
In 1998, Mouat took the head girls job at Butte High School, where he coached for four seasons. He also did double duty for two seasons, coaching the boys JV squad.
He moved into collegiate coaching at Montana Tech, where he was the assistant women's basketball coach for the 2002-03 season.
"Our two candidates are pretty different in terms of what they bring to the table," Ophus said. "But I think they would both do a fantastic job."
Mouat will follow the same itinerary as Wilson, meeting with the public at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and the search committee at 4 p.m.
"I would really like the committee to come in on Thursday morning and make a decision and make an offer on the job right after," Ophus said. "With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, this is something we need to get done."
Besides the women's basketball opening, Northern will also welcome a candidate to fill Ophus' athletics director position. He announced his intention to resign this spring.
Montana State University-Bozeman senior associate athletics director Dave Gantt will be here on Tuesday to meet with the public and a search committee headed up by Northern vice chancellor Chuck Jensen.
Gantt oversees the overall development of the program, the department's corporate and marketing endeavors and the sports information operation.
Gantt, formerly MSU's most successful volleyball coach, will begin his second year as senior associate athletic director for external operations. Gantt made the transition into administration after serving as Bobcat volleyball coach since 1994.
During his tenure with the Bobcat spikers, he compiled a 157-95 record in nine seasons. Gantt began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the MSU volleyball team in 1981, and became Belgrade High's head coach in 1982. In 1988, Gantt was head coach at Northern Montana College, now MSU-Northern, and was the 1989 Frontier Conference Coach of the Year.
From 1990-92, Gantt joined the USA Men's National Team as an assistant coach. He then spent two years as head coach at Oregon State.
A public forum to meet with Gantt will be held on Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Donaldson Commons.