Brian Fish was introduced as Montana State’s new men’s basketball coach during a Wednesday press conference in Bozeman, and he made one thing clear: The Bobcats will succeed by doing things the way they’re supposed to be done.
“This is going to be a players-first program,” Fish told a gathering of reporters, fans and administrators. “A program built on doing the right things, playing the right way, treating others the right way and being held accountable, and being proud to be held accountable.
“It’s the only way I know, it’s the only way I’ve been around. Rolling up your sleeves and going to work and figuring out a way.”
Montana State announced Fish as its coach on Tuesday. Athletic director Peter Fields said Fish rose to the top of a pool of more than 120 applicants. Fields and his search committee vetted the field down to 10, and Fish, Fields said, was the obvious choice.
“I (talked) with a lot of people across the country and there were several themes that came forward with Brian: Integrity, loyalty, work ethic, basketball knowledge,” Fields said. “They all were saying that. And these aren’t the people necessarily on his reference list.”
Fish comes to the Bobcats from Oregon, where he served the past four seasons as an assistant under coach Dana Altman. He helped the Ducks reach the second round of the NCAA tournament this season.
In all, Fish spent 13 seasons under Altman in stints at Oregon, Creighton and Marshall. This will be Fish’s first head coaching stint.
Fish replaces Brad Huse, who stepped down on March 18 after eight years as coach. The Bobcats went 107-134 overall (.443) and 64-72 in conference games (.470) under Huse, including a 14-17 record in the 2013-14 season with a 9-11 mark in the league.
The Bobcats had just one winning season under Huse.
“We’re going to work hard, we’re going to play the game the right way,” Fish said. “What’s the right way? The right way is diving on loose balls, taking charges, blocking out, getting after it. People want to know what type of style we’re going to play here? We’re going to play the style it takes to win a basketball game.
“The great thing about it is your team evolves each year. Ideally I’d like to play up-tempo. We played up-tempo this year at Oregon and we were 11th in the country in scoring, but we did it with only 12 turnovers a game. I want to play that way, but we’re going to play the way it takes to win basketball games.”
Fish said he will consider keeping current MSU assistants on board, but said he is in no hurry to fill his staff.
“I want (the team) to get to know me, I want them to see that I’m bought in,” Fish said. “There’s no rush. It’s about the right fit and what helps these young men reach what we’re trying to do.”
One of Fish’s biggest goals, he said, is to win back support from both the students and the community. Toward the end of this season, MSU’s attendance had fallen below 2,000 for some home games.
“Give us a chance for our program to reinvent itself, to get back going,” Fish said. “I want this state to be a Blue and Gold state. But it starts on campus, spreads out to Bozeman and goes from there.
“Walking in the arena and looking around, if we get that thing full and get it rocking, teams are going to have a hard time winning here. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Fish, a Seymour, Ind., native, is the 22nd coach in program history. Seven programs that Fish has been associated with as either a player or coach have reached the NCAA tournament. The Bobcats have not played in the NCAA tournament since 1996.
Fish also spent time as an associate head coach under Billings native Brad Holland at San Diego, and also was an assistant on Billy Tubbs’ staff at TCU.
“I couldn’t be happier to be your coach,” Fish said. “But more importantly I couldn’t be happier to be a part of your family.”