By HDN Editorial Board
Congratulations to Mike Erickson for being named head coach of the Montana State University-Northern Skylights. His unbridled excitement on being offered the job is refreshing, to say the least. Young coaches excited about getting their first college head-coaching job are part of what NAIA athletics are all about.
Erickson was a successful coach at Wolf Point High School, and we have no doubt he will be successful at MSU-N. The fact that he has coached high school basketball on the Hi-Line and has many Montana contacts is an added plus. However, we believe the true testament to his abilities is the way he handled the mess he was willing to jump in to.
Focusing the attention of the Skylights back on basketball was the most important thing he did after replacing suspended coach Kevin Emerick. That was hardly an easy task.
We doubt if any other coach had to dodge ESPN cameras at their first game at this level. While the student body played to those cameras, taking crude parting shots at Emerick, Erickson focused his attention and that of his team on the game on the floor. That first night, his team faced the No. 3 team in the nation the University of Montana-Western Lady Bulldogs. The Skylights showed then and the rest of the season that they would play for Erickson. During and following his first game as head coach, Erickson showed remarkable poise and class. He was quick to thank assistant coach Joan Steffen for her help in the short transition period.
Mike Erickson has more obstacles to overcome than most first-time coaches, but if his performance as interim coach is any indication, the woman's basketball program at MSU-N is well on its way to returning to Frontier Conference prominence.
Kevin Carlson and the search committee should be commended for agreeing to assume the difficult task of trying to find a coach who would be willing to inherit the mess. We think they made the right choice.
Chancellor Alex Capdeville, by hiring Erickson, returns the focus of the Skylight program to basketball. Capdeville from the very beginning put the integrity of the university over wins and losses.
Removing Emerick during the middle of the season was not the easy way out, but the right thing to do. His no-nonsense leadership confronting this difficult situation leaves us feeling that the university is in good hands.