Jim Stergar thought he would be coaching basketball at Billings Senior forever.
That didn’t happen, but he’s not complaining about where his path has led him in the past 18 months.
“Stepping down at Senior (in March of 2011) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Stergar, who last week was named the head boys basketball coach at Billings Central. “It seems like everything I’ve done in coaching to this point has led me to this spot.”
The 40-year-old Stergar had a won-lost record of 115-87 in nine seasons at Senior and a career record of 193-129 at Senior and Ronan High School, where he was the head coach for five years.
His 2009-10 Senior team went 20-5 and finished third at the State AA tournament, marking the Broncs' best season since 1996. His 2001-02 Ronan team finished second in the State A tournament.
After leaving Senior, Stergar was only without a coaching gig for a few months -- thanks to then-Central coach Shel Hanser, who is also the school principal.
“Shel talked to me on the golf course last summer about helping him out,” said Stergar, who remained in School District 2 after leaving Senior as a math and history teacher at Riverside Middle School. “I was actually kind of looking forward to a year off with no coaching, but Shel convinced me that it would be good for me and we worked out a system and a routine that was great.”
Stergar said sitting on the bench as an assistant last winter at Central “turned out to be such a huge therapy for me” and thinks it actually transformed him into a different coach moving forward.
“Just to be able to sit back and watch games and observe how Shel worked as a head coach and how he managed games was unbelievable,” said Stergar. “It was great to see his demeanor on the sideline and how he let certain things just roll off his shoulders.
“I’ve always been a fiery and emotional type of coach, but I honestly think after last year I’ll be a different guy. I just needed to step back and see it done another way … a way that I really respected and admired. I realize now that I wasted so much time and energy worrying about things that were out of my control. I’m just not gonna do that anymore.”
Stergar said his primary goal at Central is to continue the winning tradition of the Rams' boys basketball program.
“I won’t try to fix something that’s not broken,” he said. “Shel and the coaches before him have established Central as one of the best programs in the Eastern A and all of Class A, and I want to maintain that history and tradition.
“Central is just a great place to be, and I’m excited about the opportunity. The school has great kids and a great athletic tradition and I really want to take advantage of the opportunity to be part of that.”