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Montana beats Southern Utah 004.JPG

Montana head coach Travis DeCuire looks on and smiles with the ball during the Grizzlies' win over Southern Utah on Jan. 25 in Missoula. He was named the Big Sky Conference coach of the year on Wednesday.

MISSOULA — University of Montana men's basketball coach Travis DeCuire was named the Big Sky Conference coach of the year for the first time on Wednesday, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

"It's an honor," the 47-year-old DeCuire said in a news release. "To me it's a sign of two things. I have a good team, and when you have players who go out and perform every day you have an opportunity to get accolades. The other piece is that I have the hardest-working staff that I've ever been around. This is as much their award as it is mine."

With a revamped defense, the fourth-year head coach guided the Griz to their first outright regular-season title since 2013. Montana posted the fourth-best conference start in Big Sky history at 13-0, finished 16-2 and earned the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.

The Griz closed the regular season at 23-7, the sixth-most wins in program history. They went undefeated at home (14-0) for the first time since 1992.

"It starts with his competitiveness," said associate head coach Chris Cobb, who has been on DeCuire's staff all four seasons. "He's highly intelligent, always is prepared and cares about our guys. He's really good at what he does, and I think all of that translates to us being successful."

In February, DeCuire became the fastest coach in Big Sky history to win 50 league games, needing just 65 games to do so.

He coached three players to all-conference team honors this season. Ahmaad Rorie earned first-team honors, Mike Oguine made the second team and was named the defensive player of the year, and Jamar Akoh was chosen for the third team.

"His passion is unreal," said Fabijan Krslovic, the team's lone senior. "Through ups and downs, it's always there. He's as happy as anyone when things are going well, and he's always there to fire us back up when we are down.

"I love playing for him, I love him. He's a great person, and he cares about everyone on this team so much, so it's awesome to see him get the recognition he deserves."

DeCuire’s contract calls for a $5,000 bonus for being named the conference coach of the year. He already earned a $5,000 bonus for the Griz winning the regular-season title.

He has a base salary of $155,00.