By Kim Staudinger
If his trip to Montana is any indication of what life would be like if he moved here, then Bill Wilson could be in trouble.
Wilson was scheduled to arrive in Havre Monday on Big Sky Airlines but his flight from Billings was delayed. Wilson was then rerouted from Billings to Salt Lake City, where he took a late flight into Great Falls. From Great Falls, he drove to Havre and arrived at 2 a.m.
"The drive here dodging all the deer was scarier than the plane ride," he laughed. In Iowa, where he's from, the deer run from cars. "Montana deer," he said, "are more willing to be hit."
Wilson is the final candidate to interview for the Montana State University-Northern head women's basketball coaching position. Wilson has spent the last six years as head women's basketball coach at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. Wilson was an assistant with the women's program for one year before taking over the head job. In his tenure at UIU, an NCAA Division III nonscholarship school, Wilson has complied a 79-72 record.
Wilson is no stranger to coming into programs that have problems. When he started at UIU, Wilson said, he "came into a rough program" with bad disclipline.
The Peacocks had not had a winning season in 13 years, Wilson said, and had not defeated a nationally ranked team in that time period. In his second year coaching the Peacocks, they defeated a nationally ranked team.
While the problems Northern faced this past season are different, Wilson said, his experiences would assist him here. He said he builds his programs on faith, trust and honesty.
Wilson has a philosophy of recruiting "good players," he said.
"You win with good people," he said. "You have success with good people. It's important to find out as much as you can about these players."
That includes going to homes of prospective players and talking to their parents as well as going to their high school and talking to guidance counselors and others.
Long-term recruiting plans for Wilson would include trying to recruit as many Montana players as possible.
"It's a lot easier to promote your program in state than it is out of state," he said.
Wilson admitted that he began at UIU by recruiting whatever players he could to make his program successful but later focused more on local athletes. He said he also leans toward recruiting high school players but does not rule out recruiting junior college transfers.
Wilson said he doesn't believe Northern is in a rebuilding situation. The issue is leadership.
"The question is more of an ethical or moral question," he said. "I know who I am as a person. That part is easy for me. I don't have to watch what I'm doing all the time because I'm trying to be conniving. I know I'm an ethical person. I know I'm a moral person so that part's easy for me."
Wilson has a certain rules his players must follow, like not talking to officials during games and keeping their jerseys tucked in at all times.
"I want players with the utmost class," Wilson said. "I won't tolerate anything less than that."
To enforce his rules, Wilson said, he is not afraid of benching athletes. While he approaches each situation differently, all his ahtletes are treated fairly, he said.
"I have the number one motivator in coaching right next to me in the bench," he said. "That's one way to discipline. Kids want to play."
Wilson is used to living in a small town his town of 1,500 people doesn't have a stoplight. He said the nearest Kmart is 25 minutes away and that he makes a mental shopping list in case he is on a road trip and sees a multipurpose store.
Wilson had previously expressed interest in the women's coaching position at Northern. His interest comes from the winning reputation.
"Northern is a very good program that has a tremendous amount of support and traditionally has been very successful," he said. "And it has the resources to win and win at the national level. I think every coach wants to work in an environment where they have the resources to be successful."
Committee chair Kevin Carlson said Tuesday that the committee will meet Thursday night to discuss its final recommendations for Chancellor Alex Capdeville. Carlson said the committee will not rank the candidates but rather will give a list of pros and cons of each. From that list, Capdeville will make a decision.
The position was created when Kevin Emerick was suspended for maintaining a personal relationship with a student. Emerick lost a court battle to retain his job.
Mike Erickson, the interim coach of the Skylights, and Shawn Reed, an assistant women's basketball coach at Sterling College in Kansas, have also interviewed for the job.