The Robin Selvig Court

jeanne

Dear Rob:: Letters From the Decades- University of Montana Athletics

The generic maple floor that sits inside Dahlberg Arena will be named “Robin Selvig Court” on Friday night.

As a leadup to the weekend, we asked some past Lady Griz to write an open letter to their former coach. And did the 1980s crew ever deliver.

 

I can’t imagine disappointing Rob.

Pretty powerful statement! The thought of not wanting to disappoint Rob was born out of love and respect, not fear. Don’t get me wrong, there was also a healthy amount of fear in each one of us during our time as a Lady Griz (but that was only on road trips when he was behind the wheel of a car). Rob earned our respect because he challenged us and demanded greatness. Rob earned our love because he valued us as more than just basketball players. Yes, he wanted to win but not at all costs. There were lessons to learn in tough losses and you had to be able to handle those alongside the victories.

Rob was teaching us about life through the game of basketball. Lessons on the meaning of hard work, sacrifice, loyalty, perseverance and grit were going to help shape who we’d become after the final buzzer went off. He was laying a foundation for success in the next chapter and how important it is to be part of something bigger than yourself.

I reached out to my decade of teammates and asked them to send five words that best describe Rob and their experience as a Lady Griz. I specifically wanted words about Rob, not his favorite words to describe us during games (most of these would not pass the new library “pass list”). Most asked why only five words. The man could not possibly be described in so few. I needed to limit the words so I could find a way to incorporate the 80s decade into a concise letter.

So, in honor of the 1980s Lady Griz, here are the five words that describe Rob for us.

#1: FAMILY (Friendship, Camaraderie)

Rob created a team, a family, and we were to honor and care for each other. He built a sense of friendship and camaraderie, an esprit de corps. We were in this together. As with any family, there was conflict and challenges among different personalities but when we stepped on the court, we were one unit. And, regardless of personal differences, if a teammate needed you off the court, you had their back. Family is what mattered most.

Over Rob’s 38-year tenure he created a bond that crossed generations in a unique and special way. He is the patriarch to a large family of women rooted in him as our anchor. We were fortunate to have played for such an amazing coach, but even more so an amazing human.

Even to this day, teammates tell me that when they reach out to Rob, he gets back to them within a few minutes. He would truly do anything for anyone of us if asked and I hope he knows we would do the same for him and his family.

#2: FUNNY (Humorous, Fun, Heartwarming)

Rob made most everything fun, except bus rides after a loss. Those were not so enjoyable! I have great memories of passing the travel time playing trivia and name that singer. Rob seriously thought that every song was sung by Billy Ocean!

I know I am speaking for most, if not all the Lady Griz, when I say that some of our best memories revolve around listening to Rob tell stories. His recollection of events is amazing because he remembers every win/loss, big basket and turnover (I never had any). The only things he claims to not remember: his driving skills (or lack thereof), his one-liners during games and any mention of throwing his sport coat or towels into the crowd.

One of his favorite sayings on the hardwood had a fun “fill in the blank” moment, depending on the situation. In the midst of battle, one might hear him screaming from the sidelines, “You’re the (fill in the blank) team in America” (he is clearly very patriotic). Here are some examples of words he might have used on a given night to fill in the blank: dumbest, slowest and worst.

Along those lines, during a particularly stressful game you might hear, “You have the brains of a gosh darn plant!” or “We couldn’t even beat the Sisters of the Poor!” or “You couldn’t get a rebound if you were the only one in the gym!” or “That would have been a good shot … if you were a shooter” or “You’re the human fricking turnover machine.” Or …

There were also the prayerful moments where Rob would gather us on the bench and have us pray for a certain teammate shooting a free throw. His faith wavered when she missed, however, as he proclaimed, “Never mind, not even God can help her!”

* Names have been omitted and words modified to protect the innocent.

#3: DEMANDING (Intense, Driven, Culture)

Rob expected the best from us and, while understanding our strengths and weaknesses, believed we could achieve the impossible. He had the ability to unite everyone towards a common goal and empowered us to accept our role on the team, even if it was a difficult assignment. He taught us to be gracious in success and resilient in failure, and how to work harder and smarter. He helped build our work ethic and character that has been so vital in our life after ball. These were all valuable life lessons.

#4: LOYAL (Humble, Caring)

Rob had the opportunity on several occasions to leave and move up in the coaching ranks, but he chose to make the Lady Griz program his home. In doing so, his loyalty created a dynasty and legacy. I will never forget going on the road and seeing 100 fans in the stands for the opposing team and wondering how the girls got motivated to play with such little support. The fans in Missoula are absolutely amazing and that was all made possible through Rob’s loyalty to us and the program.

When Lady Griz are asked what they remember most from their playing days it’s two words: THE FANS. It is a special bond dating back generations. Nothing would be possible without them.

#5: SUCCESSFUL (Leadership, Challenging, Visionary)

The definition of success according to Webster (or Siri if you don’t know Webster) is “A favorable or desired outcome.” Take a look at Rob’s resume and impact and you will be able to judge the outcomes. His success is defined by way more than a resume, however. The desire we have to go back to Missoula and hang out with him, and the bond that he created with and between us, all validates his success. The value of a coach is obviously what he teaches on the court, but the real-life lessons are what we carry with us into our families, our jobs and future.

That’s a wrap.

Throughout my decade, and honestly for Rob’s entire career, the desired outcome is close to unmatched purely based on his 865 wins, 21 NCAA tournaments and his ranking as the 11th winningest women’s coach in the country. Those are successful stats, but the one marker, the thing that sets him apart, is that more than 100 former players showed up at his retirement party.

My husband and I always say that you can assess a great coach by how many players invite them to their weddings or special events. I would be shocked to hear if Rob hasn’t been on every single one of these invite lists.

I will never forget when my oldest son Connor played Hellgate in Missoula (we are in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) and I looked up in the stands to see Rob and Jane there to support my family. It meant the absolute world to me even though I’m pretty sure he wasn’t dying to see a boy’s high school basketball game!

I often look back on my playing days and wish I was still there in so many ways. It was one of the best times of my life and it went by so very fast. I try to remind the new kids to give it all you have every second because you will blink and it will be over!

Would I change anything?  Not much, honestly. Except for maybe a few things …

I would have worked harder in the weight room, even though I was dead set on not gaining the 20 pounds they asked of me. I would have reported the Lady Griz who hid in Greenough Park during a timed run (you know who you are). I would have let Rob win our three-mile race so he didn’t have to fake a hamstring pull for the next few weeks. I would have made sure the great Vicki Austin never blew her knee before the first game of our senior year. And, of course, the last game of my senior year, we would have beat Hawaii.

My career ended with a loss. Most college athletes will end with a loss. It’s not about that final game that matters most, it’s about what you bring to the table for the next round.

Playing for Robin Selvig and the Lady Griz marks one of the absolute best decisions of my life. I am forever grateful for all Coach Selvig taught me and am incredibly proud to be part of this amazing family. I can speak with great confidence that the majority of my Lady Griz family feels the exact same way, as verified by the many that refer to their time at Montana under the direction of Robin Selvig as “life changing.”

Thank you, Rob! You are truly one of a kind and we love you deeply. Congratulations on Robin Selvig Court. Nobody is more deserving! Next up: the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame!

Go Lady Griz!

Jeanne McNulty King
Lady Griz #25
1985-1990

* For the record, this is not a suck up as I have no eligibility left!

Jeanne McNulty KingJeanne McNulty King
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