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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Central was lucky to have Espeland The Billings Central family was so incredibly lucky to have Coach Gene Espeland for 12 magical years.

When I think about Gene, I not only think about how great of a coach he is, but how great of a human being as well. He is a man who has a tremendous amount of character, integrity, and most importantly is one of the most caring individuals I know. To parents and Ram fans, Gene will be remembered as the key to putting Billings Central boys basketball on the map along with restoring a ton of pride to the Billings Central community. To his players, Gene will always be remembered as "coach," a man who taught us the game of basketball along with the game of life!

As a member of the 1994 team, I really didn't know how much coach had taught us until years after I had left high school. Coach made it very clear that basketball was a game and that there was so much more to life than winning or losing a game. His teachings were about how to deal with adversity and that no matter what hardships we may face in life, "The sun always comes up the next day."

Coach demanded that we be respectful of others at all times. If one of us were to mistreat a waitress on a road trip, he was quick to correct our juvenile attitude. His kindness and warm-heartedness are apparent to anyone that spends time with him. If you spend enough time around Gene, it begins to rub off, even though sometimes in the locker room, his kindness took a back seat to intensity and a strong-armed will. Nevertheless, win or lose it never changed his attitude toward us or others.

Another attribute of coach's is his demand for team basketball. As a player, this demand can sometimes be misconstrued as an irrational demand for perfection. Looking back on it, I am so thankful that coach demanded what he did because he knew our potential and wanted us to constantly strive for excellence. Another one of those life lessons: As soon as a person stops striving for excellence, he stops achieving it.

Even though there have been a few players that have disagreed with Gene's concept of team first and left his program, I think he has proven that his philosophy and approach to coaching is truly the formula for success on and off the basketball court. I am 100 percent convinced that the most important lesson Gene tried to teach his players is that simply caring for people will get you the furthest in life. That lesson can easily be learned by observing Gene in day-to-day life.

Thanks, coach.

Kerry Sanchez

Billings Central class of 1994

Thanks to track meet volunteers In April, the Billings Public Schools hosted the 45th Annual Billings Invitational Track Meet at MetraPark, and this past weekend, it hosted the 'AA' Divisional Track Meet. The invitational drew over 600 participants from 34 teams throughout Montana and Wyoming. The divisional track meet had approximately 350 contestants from 6 'AA' schools. There were over 100 volunteers from Billings and the surrounding area for each track meet. I would like to thank these workers for their dedication and their willingness to these youth athletes.

David J. Williams, Executive Director

District 2 Activities Department

Billings needs Outlaws football The Billings Gazette has done a great job covering the Billings Outlaws. I would like to add to the article, Bill Bighaus, wrote on the team's most recent home game against Lincoln.

I agree with the announcer — there is no question Albert Higgs is "The Man" on the field. "The Man" off the field for the Outlaws is the owner, Duane Anderson. I do not know Duane Anderson personally, but I would like to thank him for the Billings Outlaws.

It is exciting, fun and very professional sports entertainment. I hope he can keep the Billings Outlaws around for many years, just like the Billings Mustangs. I'm sure it is very hard to make ends meet financing the team.

The community-owned MetraPark Arena is a great place for indoor football. However, I understand it is very expensive to play at Metra with considerable increases in rent from year to year. Metra officials, please make the rent reasonable to keep this local professional sports entertainment for a local community-minded businessperson.

Each year, indoor football is better. The teams are very exciting to watch. The levels of improvement from the cheerleaders, to on-field promotions is great. I would like to compliment the Billings Outlaws announcer. He gets the crowd really involved in the game and he is really exciting to listen to at each game. My friends and I especially enjoy his third downs and defense crowd involvement.

The Billings Outlaws are great. Duane Anderson thanks for NIFL football. Thanks, Billings Gazette for great coverage. I hope you will be covering the Billings Outlaws for a long time.

Steve Coldwell

Billings

Outlaws need better support Montana will never be big enough to support an AFL or NFL team. For you and a companion to see a game, it easily means spending $1,000 for airfare, hotel, eating plus minimum of $60 for binocular seats.

What we do have is the Billings Outlaws NIFL team. And whether they win or lose, these games are fun to watch. There is continuous action, lots of scoring, give-a-ways, great dancing by the cheer team and an indoor environment with no snow, rain or wind.

Take your family, including children, and invite your friends. It's great Saturday night entertainment, where you can yell, cheer, disagree with the referees and get to know the players and coaches. Support your team, otherwise there may not be one!

Bonnie and Tom Yanok

Billings

Thanks for tennis coverage The Billings Gazette's coverage of the State AA Tennis Championships deserves an A+ grade. Reporters Mike Zimmer, Mike Scherting and Greg Rachac together with photographers Bob Zellar and John Warner covered Montana's premier tennis event with enthusiasm and excellence. Their efforts were much appreciated by the players, coaches, parents and fans.

There is one correction that I would like to submit: Ted Smoot was the first state singles champion that I coached — not Billings Senior's first. Some of Senior's other champions include Mike Hogarty and Ron Avent, both of Billings, and Paul Larson, whose son Andrew is currently Bozeman High's top player.

Dave Klarich

Billings Senior boys tennis coach

(Sports letters can be mailed to: Sports Editor, The Billings Gazette, 401 North Broadway, Billings, MT 59101; or e-mailed to: mzimmer@billingsgazette.com)

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