Robin Selvig

After 38 years at the helm of the Lady Griz, Robin Selvig has announced his retirement. He's shown here coaching the team in what would be his last home game, an 84-75 win over Weber State in February.

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

MISSOULA — Living in Montana, most folks don't even bother whining about long travel times.

They just come with the expansive territory.

For Missoulians, it's a three-hour drive to Spokane and Bozeman and a five-hour haul to Billings. But those trips are a drop in the bucket, relatively speaking, compared to the closest major cities — Seattle and Denver.

For those who travel only on special occasions, hours on the road represent a minor inconvenience. For someone like Montana women's basketball coach Robin Selvig, they undoubtedly represent something more.

For close to four decades the 63-year-old has spent a good amount of each winter guiding the Lady Griz to faraway places. That in itself probably wasn't enough to pull him into retirement this week, but it certainly was a contributor.

"That’s part of what makes it a difficult job," Montana 24-year assistant coach Shannon Schweyen said. "It’s not like some of these other places that are chartering back the night of the game. It’s not easy getting in and out.

"There’s often times I’ve been on a bus and thought, ‘I’m exhausted. How the heck does (Selvig) do this year after year, night after night?’ He just always approaches everything with such an upbeat attitude. He certainly never let the girls know it was getting to him. He was really good in that respect."

Devoting as much time as Selvig did to the Lady Griz becomes more of a sacrifice when there's a wife, children and grandchildren in the mix. There were subtle hints toward the end of this past season that Selvig was ready to spend more time with family.

"One thing that always stood out to me," Lady Griz post Alycia Sims related, "was how Rob, who, on a side note, struggled with technology, was always FaceTiming his granddaughter.

"Rob would come wandering through the gym turning the camera around to show her what the girls were up to. Knowing how much family means to him, I think it was somewhat upsetting for him that his Lady Griz family ate up so much of his time."

Selvig will elaborate on his reasons for saying goodbye on Thursday morning in a press conference. It's going to take a while for all of his players, past and present, to fully digest the bombshell.

"There has been some talk the last couple years, so it wasn’t like we weren’t expecting it," Schweyen said. "At one point in time I told him, ‘I think you have a lot still left to give.’"

Over the past decade, Selvig was very good at maintaining perspective when his team suffered a disappointing loss. But the fact he set the bar so high with his program led to lofty expectations year after year.

"He put pressure on himself," said Tom Stage, Selvig's close friend and play-by-play announcer for the Lady Griz for more than two decades. "He's such a competitor."

Despite the prevailing pressure, Selvig had a way of treating his players that endeared him to them. Year after year they continue to come back to catch a game, even decades after turning in their uniforms for the last time.

"He would yell and scream and you’d feel like he was so serious during a game and then you get in the locker room and he’s so calm and cool," former player Alyssa (Smith) Pfahler said. "He was never losing his mind in the locker room.

"Even for someone like myself, that’s hard to go from something like you’re adrenaline is running, you’re in the middle of a game, to being able to talk level-headed. He would even sometimes say to us he should have done things differently. In his mind, it’s not just us players losing. We were a team all the way around, coaches and players as one."

Pfahler believes Selvig's ability to judge character on the recruiting trail is one reason he enjoyed consistent success.

"He tended to recruit players and girls who he trusted, who he felt like were good people," she asserted. "I feel like that’s why the program has been such a strong program. He recruits people that are good people and work hard and want to win.

"And when you're Lady Griz, you don’t just want to win because you’re competitive. You want to win for Rob because of how much hard work and dedication he put into the program." 

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