Team preview: Montana

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Perhaps it wasn't a stunning turn of events -- a successful mid-major coach leaving for greener pastures. But the timing was sudden. Montana coach and favorite son Larry Krystowiak up and bolted for an assistant's job with the Milwaukee Bucks in June.

Krystowiak, who played for the Bucks in his decade-long NBA career, was a hometown hero in Missoula, for many reasons. One, his playing days at UM were legendary -- he finished as the school's all-time leading scorer. Two, he's from Missoula. And three, the last two years were golden for the Griz under his watch. He led Montana to two straight NCAA appearances, and last year the Grizzlies drilled a very good Nevada team, 87-79, in the tournament's first round, before falling to Boston College two days later.

Montana finished the year 24-7, second in the Big Sky, but champion of the conference tournament, where it upset Northern Arizona on its home floor to garner the league's only NCAA berth.

It was no secret Krystowiak was trolling for a new job. He was a finalist at Pepperdine and was at some NBA summer venues networking. Instead of lamenting his departure, UM moved quick and hired long time assistant Wayne Tinkle, another former UM player.

Tinkle coached under the last three Montana coaches -- Don Holst, Pat Kennedy, and Krystowiak. Montana is on its fourth coach in eight years. Tinkle is obviously excited about his new job after paying his dues for nearly a decade as a loyal foot soldier assistant.

"It's just an incredible feeling," Tinkle said. "When I decided to go into this profession, we were a little bit down in the dumps and I wanted to try and do my part to get this going again, and now five years later to be captain of the ship, it's just a thrill. People who know me know the passion and desire I have, not only for Missoula, but the university itself and the basketball program. It's a dream come true to be in this position."