By Rob Everingham
Nine divisional titles, two state championships, and 15 District 9-C titles.
They all belong to the Big Sandy Pioneers and have come under coach Roy Lackner.
Lackner's Pioneers have made it back to the top of the heap this year as they head to Missoula next weekend with their perfect 23-0 record, and try to keep the Class C state championship in the District 9-C.
Lackner commented on his perfect season, saying that some say a loss shows that you're able to be beat.
He says if his athletes don't think they can lose then they will do everything they can so they don't.
For his career, Lackner sits with a 403-52 record. Lackner was also inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame last fall.
Lackner said he has that record because he has been able to motivate athletes to work in the off-season. Second, he said, their parents have allowed them to train in the off-season.
"That is where teams are made," Lackner said.
Lackner also said he has been blessed with talented athletes. He spoke of Shannon Green when he was first at Big Sandy, up through the years of Jennifer Curl, and now Sasha Ritter.
"The best players must put out the most effort," Lackner said.
To his critics who say he is too harsh, Lackner said, there are no gray areas with him.
"If it's always wishy-washy, the kids don't know where they are at," Lackner said.
He also said that discipline and conditioning are very important factors in his program.
"They like to have a little discipline," Lackner said.
Also, Lackner's teams don't have some of the attitudes that other teams have. He said they need to be concentrating on the game and if they have an attitude then they are not doing that.
Lackner said he wants his athletes to play with intensity. Whether they are up by 10 points or behind by two, they still need to keep up the intensity.
As for next weekend's state tournament, Lackner said, he feels very fortunate to be there again. He said they will just have to step it up another level.
The Pioneers' leading scorer, Sasha Ritter, said she has a lot of respect for Lackner.
"He gets the most out of his players," Ritter said.
Ritter also said Lackner has a way of turning nothing into something.
As for Lackner's sometimes harsh sideline tactics, Ritter said, he is different in practice. She said Lackner is very supportive and does much more than just yell at his players.
Ritter agrees with that of Jennifer Curl, who said two years ago, that if Lackner doesn't yell at you, then something is wrong.
"If he doesn't yell, he doesn't want to make you better," Ritter said.
Another senior on the team Jessica Curl said Lackner is very inspirational. Curl said after being at Big Sandy for four years, she feels as though Lackner is a second father to her.
"He's always on the lookout for me," Curl said.
Curl said Lackner has a more in-depth knowledge of the game, and that is why they are so successful. She said they spend a lot of time looking at tapes and Lackner always anticipates what the other team will do.
As far as his critics go, Curl said, some are too quick to judge.
"You have to know him, to criticize him," Curl said.
Curl said his style of coaching shows you what you're doing wrong.
"If he yells, you know he cares," Curl said.
Marietta (Bahnmiller) Boyce played for Lackner from 1983-86, and now is a the head girls' coach at Winifred High School.
Boyce said Lackner is an excellent coach. She said she has played for him and coached against him, and he is a student of the game.
"He lives basketball," Boyce said.
Also, Boyce said, Lackner recognizes potential and gets the most out of players.
Boyce said when she played for Lackner, people would ask how she could play with him screaming at them.
"It's not a personal thing, he is trying to improve you as a player," Boyce said.
Boyce also said you can't judge the relationship Lackner has with his players by just watching him coach a game.
Lackner and his Big Sandy Pioneers will be in the hunt for their third state title, two in three years, next weekend. The Pioneers will travel to Missoula to square off against the states best teams.