First day of school

Kurt Kautz, first-grade teacher at St. Francis Primary Catholic School, lets his class out after the first day of school in 2013.

Gazette Staff

The girls' basketball coach for Huntley Project High School died Saturday night in a car wreck, the school district announced Sunday.

Kurt Kautz, 37, who owned a trucking company in Huntley, had been the girls' basketball coach for the past three years, said Huntley Project Athletic Director Guy Croy.

Reached by phone Sunday night, Huntley Project Superintendent Mark Wandle called Kautz a “dedicated guy (who) loved athletic competition and really valued hard work and life lessons.”

“Everything from the basketball court to singing Christmas carols with his community,” Wandle said. “It’s a tough day.”

Kautz was pronounced dead at the scene of the Saturday night crash after his pickup truck rolled over on Interstate 94 north of Lockwood, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck, and no passengers were present, the MHP report stated.

Wandle confirmed Kautz was the person killed in the I-94 rollover, and said he had just spoken with his family.

It was unclear why Kautz's vehicle, driving eastbound near mile marker 2, swerved into the highway median at around 9 p.m., according to the MHP report, although alcohol was suspected as a factor. It rolled across the westbound lane and ejected Kautz, who was not wearing his seatbelt, the report stated.

Croy said Sunday afternoon that the tragic news was “rippling through” the community of teachers and others who knew the local coach.

"He stepped up when we couldn't get anyone interested three years ago, and he took the job (in) a relatively short time before the season started," Croy said.

Kautz wasn't a teacher at the school, but was a graduate of Huntley Project who Croy said was passionate about "giving back to the community and trying to bring some consistency and stabilize the girls' basketball program."

He also hosted basketball camps for elementary school students, Croy added.

Starting Monday, the school district will provide support services for teachers and staff affected by the loss.

"I know all of us at Huntley Project are saddened by Kurt's death and send our deepest condolences to his family and friends," the district stated in a post on its Facebook page Sunday.

Kautz graduated from Montana State University Billings in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Teaching, according to his profile on the Linked In social media website.

"Life is so much more important than sports or athletics," Croy said. "That's our focus and concern, is for the family."

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.