Havre High moves fast.
Just days after Andy Smith announced his decision not to return as the Blue Pony boys basketball coach, Havre High principal Dennis Murphy has announced the hiring of a new head coach.
Pending board approval at the May board meeting, former Blue Pony football, basketball and track standout Curt Leeds will take over as the boys basketball coach. Leeds will also teach math at Havre High, making the move back to Havre after spending the last four years as a coach and teacher at Shelby High School in Shelby.
“Curt has a great passion for the game,” Muphy said. “And we knew that someday he would be searching for an opportunity to be a head coach. And for us to get a Blue Pony to come back home to coach our program, that is significant. The passion and work ethic he has displayed at Shelby High School is hopefully what he will bring here to Havre High, and continue the tradition that we want for our basketball program of being successful, as well as taking it to the next level.
“He has a real strong recommendation,” Murphy added. “Both academically and athletically from Shelby, and the people around that area who have watched him. We are excited for the opportunity to have him here at Havre High.”
Leeds was a graduate from Havre High in 2003, where he spent his career as a top Blue Pony athlete.
Leeds played three years of varsity basketball under then head coach Mark West, sharing the spotlight with other former greats such as Cory Brothers, Steve Heberly and Trent Normandy. Leeds was also part of the team that won the 2002-03 Central A regular season title.
But Leeds also played four years of football under head coach Troy Purcell. While at Havre High, Leeds was a receiver and defensive end on a Blue Pony team which won two Central A titles and reached and hosted a Class A state title game in 2002. The Ponies hosted Laurel that year, losing by two points for a second-place finish.
“It’s an honor to be coming back home and coaching a program we all take so much pride in,” Leeds said. “I think anyone who has ever put on that blue, Blue Pony jersey feels that pride. I’m really excited for this opportunity and it’s a dream come true for me. I think it’s a dream come true for anybody to be able to come back to their home town and coach. So I’m really excited.”
But this isn’t Leads’ first coaching gig, or his first trip back to Havre.
Smith’s first year as the Pony head coach, Leeds was also the HHS boys’ freshman coach, fresh out of college. And after that, Leeds has spent the last four years coaching in Shelby as the head track coach the last two seasons, the head football coach this past season, and as the boys basketball assistant under another former Blue Pony great, Tom Reynolds. Reynolds led the Coyotes to a Class B state title in 2008, and second place finishes in 2010 and 2009. During his time in Shelby Leeds coached at both the high school and middle school boys basketball level.
And coaching under Reynolds, Leeds has learned a thing or two the last four years.
“I have been very, very lucky to coach under Tom Reynolds,” Leeds said. “He is such a great coach to learn from, not just with the x’s and o’s, but also just how good he is at getting everything and the very best out of every kid who plays for him. I really learned a lot being an assistant coach for him.”
The plan for Leeds is to get started right away.
Once back, living in Havre, Leeds must first soak up as much as he can about his new team, then just take it from there. The summer is filled with camps and tournaments, and while Leeds knows some about next year’s Blue Pony team, he has a lot of work ahead of him before next season.
“I’ve talked to some people in Havre about the team,” Leeds said. “And I ran into Kade Rismon and Thurman Holdsclaw at a track meet in Whitefish this weekend. So I know a little about some of the kids, but not a lot. We (Shelby) also played Havre twice this season so that will help.
“The first thing is just getting to know the kids better,” Leeds added. “To see who we have and who is going to come out next year. That’s the first thing, to develop that through the summer. Then it’s about coaching around all of their strengths. I’m really excited to get back home and get started this summer.”
Note: Havre Daily News sports editor George Ferguson contributed to this story.