BOZEMAN — Allen L. Fisher, who guided the Lame Deer boys basketball team to its first Class B state tournament appearance as interim coach in March 2017, died Monday night in a swimming accident on the Tongue River near Ashland. He was 37.
Further details of Fisher's death were unclear Tuesday afternoon.
"Al, he was genuine, caring, nice guy," said Lame Deer athletic director August "Tiger" Scalpcane, who hired Fisher as an assistant coach at St. Labre in 2010 and Lame Deer in 2014. "He was a really good motivator to kids. He was just ... there's so much to say about him. You couldn’t teach the heart he had for these kids, the passion he had to work with them and help them."
Fisher was an assistant coach during the 2016-17 season and took over the Morning Stars for the postseason. He guided the team to a 69-56 victory over Lodge Grass for the Southern B title in front of a crowd of 7,000 at the Metra in Billings on March 4, 2017.
"It's definitely an elation right now," Fisher said the previous day, after the Morning Stars topped Roundup in the semifinals to solidify a berth at state. "I'm happy for our community. Our community has had a string of hard events and deaths that have been hard on our community and we needed something positive and something like this to pull us together and have something good come out of Lame Deer.
"I'm just happy for everybody."
Fisher was an all-state football player for Lame Deer and a role player on its last basketball team to make a state tournament, in 1999-2000 when the school was Class C. He coached the junior high football program to its most successful season in recent memory in 2017, Scalpcane said.
Fisher also coached of the 2017-18 Morning Stars team, which was eliminated in the district tournament. Scalpcane said Fisher did not reapply for the position for the upcoming school year "for personal reasons".
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Former University of Montana and Heart Butte standout Mike Chavez took to Facebook to share his grief. Chavez grew up on the Crow Reservation and coached at Northern Cheyenne.
“Cheyenne country lost one of its greats,” Chavez wrote. “One of the kindest, intelligent, and articulate people I had the opportunity of knowing. Hands down one of the fastest athletes around. Great ball player with one of the best basketball IQs. Great coach, and back in High School one of the best football players in the State of Montana. From the time we were little kids to adulthood, Al was always fearless....Never backed down from anything. He was one of those individuals known all over Indian country. Even with all his accolades he was the nicest person you could meet. Someone who would keep you laughing all day...... Always shaking anyone's hand and visiting all the Old folks who would pull him aside. Great man who will be missed all over Indian country. Glad To call him my cousin/bro. Prayers the Fisher family.”
New Northern Cheyenne Tribal School girls coach Cameron McCormick told 406mtsports.com on Tuesday night that his first team will dedicate its 2018-19 season to Fisher, whom he described as "my cousin-in-law".
Said Scalpcane: "It’s going to impact the whole reservation. He’s worked not just with schools. He’d open up the gym and work with kids, take time out of his life and work with on the fundamentals. He always donated his time, helped with tournaments, he reffed -- any kind of events he was always willing to help. He’s touched a lot of not just youth but people because he was always laughing and being crazy.
"His devotion to these kids is unmatched by anybody around here. He's just an all-around great guy."
A rosary service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Labre Catholic Mission in Ashland. Mass of Christian Burial is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Lame Deer High School and graveside services will follow at 12:30 p.m. at Fisher Butte Cemetery in Lame Deer.