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Montana St. coach Durham retires

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State men's basketball coach Mick Durham
said Monday he is retiring after 16 years at the school, following
a 15-15 season in which his team again faltered down the stretch.

"The last couple months have just felt different," Durham said
at a news conference. "When the season ended I didn't want to go
recruiting. I didn't want to start scheduling. I didn't want to get
ready for camps."

Durham, 49, a former MSU basketball player, posted a 246-213
record as a coach. His teams won a pair of league titles, the
1995-96 team advanced to the NCAA tournament and the 2001-02 team
played in the National Invitational Tournament.

"I was given the opportunity a long time ago, and where it led
is unbelievable," Durham said. "I never in my wildest dreams --
No. 1 think I'd ever play here and No. 2 think I'd be the head
coach for 16 years. For me to walk into this building every day for
the last 24 years was pretty neat. It was a big deal to me."

Montana State athletic director Peter Fields said Durham "has
meant as much to Bobcat basketball as this program has meant to
him.

"He is a man of high integrity and a coach who poured all of
himself into his program. He achieved at a high level over a long
period of time at the school he loves," Fields said. "I think
that is the strongest statement that can be made on Mick's behalf.
He has affected a lot of lives in a positive way."

Durham had three 20-win seasons, in 1994-95, 1995-96 and
2001-02. But over the past four seasons, the Bobcats have gone
54-58, failed to qualify for the Big Sky Conference tournament in
2002-03 and 2003-04 and lost out in the first round the past two years.

Even more telling, the past four Bobcat teams have closed the
season with a combined record of 8-21. The 2002-03 team lost its
final four games, and over the next seasons the Bobcats closed at
3-6, 3-5 and 2-6.

"Nowadays there's a lot more scrutiny from everybody across the
state who thinks they're experts," said Scott Hatler, who set the
MSU career assists record of 608 from 1992-96.

"Everybody thinks they've got the answer, but believe me, it's
a lot easier in the stands than on the sideline," Hatler told the
Great Falls Tribune.

Durham received his third league coach-of-the-year award after
the 2004-05 season, in which the Bobcats, picked to finish last in
the league in preseason polls, finished in a tie for second with a
6-9 mark. But the Bobcats lost five of their final eight games of
the season, including a 75-69 loss to Montana in the semifinals of
the league tournament.

This year, the Bobcats returned all five starters from the 2004-05
team and preseason polls predicted they would win the league title.
Despite having three all-conference players -- including
co-defensive MVP Al Beye -- the Bobcats went 7-7 in league play and
lost six of their final eight games, including a 71-70 loss to
Sacramento State in the first round of the league tournament.

"I think it's kind of a tough deal for a guy who's given his
whole life to Montana State, not only the university but the
basketball program," said Danny Sprinkle, a member of the 1995-96
championship team who is now an assistant men's basketball coach at
Cal State-Northridge.

"For 16 years, for him to do what he's done is pretty
remarkable," said Sprinkle, who holds MSU's career records for
numbers of 3-pointers attempted and made (263-628), as well as free
throw percentage (.850). "It shows his loyalty to Bozeman and the
Bobcats."

Durham's resignation means three Big Sky Conference schools are
looking for men's basketball coaches.

Weber State coach Joe Cravens was dismissed Feb. 27, two days
after his team finished its second straight losing season with a
10-17 mark. Cravens was 116-88 in seven seasons.

Idaho State coach Doug Oliver announced in mid-January that he
would resign at the end of the season. He had an 88-134 record in
eight seasons at ISU.

Fields said he hopes to have a new coach in place by early
April.

"I'd hope they'd do it with somebody who has some kind of ties
to Montana State, who knows the tradition there, who knows how
important it is to the people of Bozeman and the people in
Montana," Sprinkle said.

Durham was a three-year starter at guard
for the Bobcats in the late 1970s and is fourth place in the school
records in career free throw percentage (81.6) and career assists
(362). He coached at Shepherd High School from 1980-82 before
returning to MSU and serving as an assistant coach to Stu Starner
for seven seasons. Durham was named the head coach of the Bobcats
in April 1990.

Durham's father, Lin, played basketball at Montana State. His
son, Casey, just finished his sophomore season as a point guard for
the Bobcats.