George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Havre High head volleyball coach Bill Huebsch has been interested in coaching the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team before. But this time around, it looks like it's certain Huebsch is the right man to help rebuild the struggling Skylights program. After going 14-55 the last three seasons, Northern is looking for its third head coach in four years, and on Tuesday, Huebsch interviewed for the position and faced tough questions from a contingent of MSU-N supporters, faculty and administration. "It's a great opportunity. I've been interested in this job before and for whatever reason, it just didn't work out at the time, it wasn't the right fit at the time. Everyone sets goals in life and this has been one of mine for a long time," Huebsch said of his decision to pursue the position at MSU-N. "I take a lot of pride in the success I've had at Havre High. You build a lot of strong bonds with those kids, and for the better part of 16 years I've put that program first. I feel like it's where it needs to be and now is maybe time to put my self in front of things and this is something I want to do. "I want to be part of the solution at a school I graduated from (MSU-N), my wife graduated from and that I care deeply about," he added. And there is no doubt that Tuesday Huebsch conveyed his passion not only for volleyball at HHS and at MSU-N, but in Montana and just his overall love of the game. For almost an hour Tuesday, Huebsch talked about what he thinks it will take to get the Northern program back to relevance again in the Frontier Conference, about recruiting, about his passion for the game, about his coaching history, a history which includes a pair of Class A state championships, as well as a lot of success recently. He spoke briefly on his philosophies on issues that will arise at the college level, about differences in what he will face coaching high school and college volleyball, and a multitude of other subjects. But the biggest issue is just getting things back on the right track at Northern. After three difficult seasons, two under Greg Ryan and one under Steve Leggitt, the MSU-N volleyball program seems to be at a crossroads, and Huebsch was open and honest about his vision for the future. "I think it's hard to say where this program is really at until we see which kids are coming back and which ones aren't and we can sit down and evaluate exactly what we have," Huebsch said. "But I do believe there is a lot of talent and good young talent on the roster right now. "Right now with all of the good players on the roster, add in a few good recruits, and if the kids buy into the system I want to implement, the attitude I want this team to have, I don't see any reason why we couldn't be competitive right out of the gate. I believe that honestly. "It's going to be a process though," he added. "There are plenty of things I think that could be different and things in need of change, and as for a time line for competing for a conference championship, things like that, two to three years, maybe four. It's really hard to say, it could be sooner because if you have talent and you recruit well, you never know, you could come out and surprise people right away. But as for immediately, if they buy into what we want to do here, I know they'll be competitive right away, I know they'll compete." And recruiting actually hasn't seemed to be the problem at Northern in recent years. The Skylights do have a roster full of talented players, and while it's not known if all of them will return for the spring semester, the cupboard would not be bare for Huebsch if given the opportunity to take over the program. But he did touch on his recruiting beliefs, and his recruiting thoughts went hand-in-hand with his answer when asked how to generate better attendance and more fan interest for Skylights volleyball. "I'm a Montana guy," Huebsch said. "I've spent 16 years coaching in Montana and I believe I have made a lot of contacts, I know a lot of coaches and that's where you start. Obviously, you have to go elsewhere if you can't fill some of your needs from kids here in Montana, and we won't rule out looking all over for good players, players who will fit our program not just on the court, but academically and that have the kind of character we're looking for, but Montana is where I feel we need to recruit the hardest. "Obviously success on the court will help get people interested in the program," he added. "But having those Montana kids on the roster, I think that is big for the fans and for the program. I think it's very important." For almost an hour Huebsch reiterated his desire to come back to his alma mata and try and return the Skylights to prominence, and he seemed impressive in all of his answers to some very strong questions. He also seems very optimistic on taking on all of the challenges that will come from being the Skylights head coach. So much so that it prompted a response from MSU-N Athletic Director Mark Samson, who closed the session saying that at this time, Northern probably would not be bringing any more candidates to campus. "I've talked to other applicants, I've done some informal interviews and phone interviews, and I've talked to people about those applicants," Samson said. "We've had this job open the entire time since Greg Ryan left, so as far as we're concerned, Bill Hubesch is the best man for the job." That's a ringing endorsement and with 16 years of coaching experience, a Havre background and a strong hold on recruiting in Montana, and after Tuesday's forum, there looks to be little doubt that Huebsch is the best man to lead the Skylights into a much-needed new era in volleyball. Samson also stated that with things like recruiting, spring practice and scheduling, the time line for an announcement on the vacancy will be sooner rather than later. "It's not like we just want to rush through this process, we've worked hard to find the best candidate possible," Samson said. "But there are important things that have to be done in the months of January and February as it relates to this program, so hopefully we will get this wrapped up very soon."