Robin Selvig, Montana's beloved women's basketball coach, announced his retirement Wednesday.
The search for his replacement is under way. Longtime assistant Shannon Schweyen told the Missoulian she is pursuing the job.
The unexpected news marked the end of Selvig's 38-year reign as leader of the Lady Griz.
"Even legends get tired," said Tom Stage, Selvig's close friend and play-by-play announcer for the Lady Griz for more than two decades.
"I saw it coming but I thought he’d go at least one more. I wanted him to get these seniors through but that’s just my prejudice. Like he said, ‘Tom, there’s always going to be seniors coming around.’ I think the recruiting part of it got tiring and all that building up. As a coach, being on the court is the easiest part. It’s all the other part of it."
Selvig, who turns 64 next month, suggested in a news release he started to lose some of his excitement. He will address the media in a news conference Thursday morning.
"When you wear down a little, you start to wonder: Can I still give them my best?" he asserted. "I don’t like that question, and I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like not being fired up for next year. The players deserve me at my best, and I don’t know if I have the energy to keep doing it. There are mixed feelings, but I think the time is right.”
Selvig battled through an illness this past winter that sidelined him briefly. But he finished the season in good health and there was no indication he would retire this summer.
He will vacate his office in the Adams Center on Aug. 31.
"It's such a demanding job nowadays and it seems like it’s getting more and more difficult with the year-around things you can be doing with them," Schweyen said while on a recruiting trip in California. "After a while it just gets to where I think he was just ready to move on in his life.
"We have to respect that and wish him the best. I know it’s going to be really hard on the girls. It came as a shock to many people."
Selvig will be joined in Thursday's news conference by Montana athletics director Kent Haslam. He will discuss the plan to name a successor.
Selvig won 865 games and built the Lady Griz into one of the most consistently successful programs in the nation. His teams produced 36 winning seasons, 31 20-win campaigns, 24 conference championships and 21 NCAA tournament appearances. Twenty-one times he was voted by his peers as his conference’s coach of the year.
"We've known about his chance of retiring here these past few months," said Schweyen, the all-time leading scorer for the Lady Griz. "I just can’t say enough about the type of man he is. He’s been in my life longer than my own father and he’s been an unbelievable mentor to me.
"What’s he done for the state of Montana and women’s basketball, it’s just unprecedented. There hasn’t been anything like that anywhere other than maybe Pat Summitt at Tennessee. People think of Montana basketball and that’s what they think of, Robin Selvig. He will be sorely missed."
Because of the timing on his decision, Selvig was unable to tell his players as a group. Alycia Sims, Montana's senior-to-be post from Stevensville, said Selvig met with her and senior-to-be forward Kayleigh Valley.
"I had a swarm of emotions hit me," Sims said. "Initially I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to finish my time here with him.
"But I realized quickly that it was unfair of me to have such selfish thoughts when he had so unselfishly dedicated himself to this program for so many years."
Playing in front of some of the nation’s most dedicated fans, Montana went 511-61 at Dahlberg Arena with Selvig at the helm. It was a mutual love affair, the result the envy of nearly every opposing team.
"He’s been a Lady Griz father figure and it’s so weird to think about what it’s going to be like for future Lady Griz players," said former Montana player Alyssa (Smith) Pfahler. "You knew it was going to happen at some point. You can’t coach forever. I’m just so thankful I had the opportunity to play for not just a great coach, but a great man who is caring and kind and loyal."
Well-known for his fiery persona on the bench, Selvig was a different man off the court. Funny, witty and exceeding humble, he looked most uncomfortable while he was being honored in front of a crowd for a milestone win.
That might explain why he elected to retire in the summer. He didn't want the fuss that comes with a farewell season.
"It’s such a unique thing in Montana, Lady Griz basketball, and it’s just been such a mainstay for so many people with the lack of turnover," Schweyen said. "Everybody knew what they were getting when they came to a game. There’s so many people that came just to watch Rob.
"He was a known entity, a quality product, and I know everybody will miss watching him on the sidelines, especially myself."
For all of his wins, Selvig's gracious way of handling defeat also contributed to his legend. He had a way of picking his players up following a tough setback – always looking forward, always with a positive attitude.
Stage knows better than most Selvig's caring, compassionate side. He suffered a stroke in 2014 and his job as radio voice of the Lady Griz was in jeopardy.
Or so he thought.
"I told him, 'I’m not going to hold you back, Robin. That’s the last thing I want to do,' " Stage shared. "He just said, 'No, you’re going. You’re going to do this. You’re not holding us back. My girls will physically carry you if we have to.' "
Transitioning away from Lady Griz basketball may not be easy for a man who first came to Missoula as a recruit for the men's basketball team. On the other hand, you get the feeling he'll be just fine, accompanied by his loving wife Janie and an ever-growing family.
"I look forward to being able to see my boys and my granddaughter a little more," Selvig said. "At the end of August, (son) Jeff and his family are moving, and we’re going down to help out. We’ll babysit Sofia. Maybe paint a wall or two. If I was coaching, I wouldn’t be doing that."