Montana coach Larry Krystkowiak's charge when he returned to his alma mater two years ago was to bring back the glory to the once-proud program.
He did just that with two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a first-round win over Nevada in March.
And now he's gone.
Krystkowiak resigned Wednesday to become an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. Assistant Wayne Tinkle was named the new head coach of the Grizzlies.
Krystkowiak was officially hired on Thursday, joining Terry Stotts' staff. Krystkowiak will replace Bob Ociepka, whose contract wasn't renewed.
Krystkowiak's two-year run of NCAA berths is quite remarkable considering Montana had been to only five NCAA Tournaments before Krystkowiak, even with notable coaches such as Jud Heathcote (1975), Stew Morrill (1991), Blaine Taylor (1992 and '97) going through Missoula.
Mike Montgomery, the former Stanford coach and current Golden State Warriors coach, didn't take the Grizzlies to the NCAAs. Don Holst in 2002 was the last coach before Krystkowiak to do it, in his final season. Pat Kennedy replaced him briefly before Krystkowiak took over.
"Larry has brought respect back to Grizzly basketball and for that we will be forever grateful," said UM athletic director Jim O'Day. "He was passionate in the way he coached for the University of Montana, and that was evidenced in the way our team played."
Tinkle, 40, played for the Grizzlies from 1985-89 and was a three-time all-Big Sky Conference selection. He as been an assistant on the team the past five years.
"We are very fortunate to have someone like Wayne Tinkle waiting in the wings," O'Day said. "For the past several years he's been a stable rock on our staff. As we've gone through some coaching changes, he has been the one constant and we'll give him an opportunity to show his talents."
Tinkle is ranked fifth among Montana's all-time scorers (1,500
points) and fourth in rebounding (836).
Tinkle played professional basketball for 12 seasons, until
2000. He played in the Continental Basketball Association and in
Sweden, Spain, Italy and Greece and briefly in the International
He became a UM assistant in 2001 and served under coaches Don
Holst (2001-02), Kennedy (2002-04) and Krystkowiak (2004-06).
He was a finalist for the head coaching job after Kennedy
"I can't express how excited I am to have the opportunity," Tinkle said. "During my playing days we could have picked anywhere to live, and we always came back to Missoula. We love the city and the state, and we wanted to be around the program. To now be able to run the program, along with my staff, is a dream come true.
"I've had a hand in recruiting every player that is on the roster, as well as the incoming players, and that will help with
the transition," he said. "Our players are excited about the
direction we are heading. I am humbled and proud to pick up the
torch, and we're not going to lose any momentum."
O'Day said Krystkowiak is leaving Missoula to join the Bucks minicamp, which starts Friday.
"This is a dream professional career opportunity for Larry as there are only a few of these jobs in the country," O'Day said. "We respect his decision and know he will always remain a valued member of the Griz family."
Krystkowiak was at the Orlando pre-draft camp June 6-10 talking to a number of NBA personnel. At first glance, Krystkowiak's appearance didn't make much sense because Montana didn't have any players in the camp. But Krystkowiak has plenty of NBA ties, and it appeared he was simply catching up with colleagues such as Montgomery.
He apparently was also pursuing other opportunities.
Krystkowiak played in the NBA for nine seasons, including a stint in Milwaukee. He is Montana's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Krystkowiak was a finalist for the Pepperdine job but withdrew before Fresno City College coach Vance Walberg was named coach. One of Krystkowiak's complaints about the situation at Montana was the school's inability to offer more money and years. Montana has traditionally not been a high-paying job or a place where multi-year contracts are offered.
"We knew that we could only keep Larry so long," O'Day said. "He's a very talented individual and will always be sought after."
O'Day predicted that some day Krystkowiak would be a head coach
in the NBA, like former Griz coach Mike Montgomery, who is head
coach of the Golden State Warriors.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.