HELENA – It’s been a long time since Gary Turcott was not a Carroll college basketball coach in some capacity.
27 years in fact.
But sitting on the couch inside the basketball offices of the PE Center, Turcott, whose name has been synonymous with Saints hoops, announced that he was retiring.
“There is never really a good time to make this hard decision,” Turcott said. “I have so much fun coaching with Rachelle and we have such a good relationship, but there comes a point where you can’t coach forever.”
Turcott didn’t think about retiring until after the season ended in which the Saints finished with 26 wins and a trip to the NAA national Tournament in Billings. He said he was struggling with some minor health issues, like having bronchitis for the last three months, and it was taking a toll on him.
“I don’t think the average person realizes coming down the stretch of a basketball season in January, February and March, how much even assistant coaches are putting into it,” Turcott said.
Carroll College Athletic Director Charlie Gross said Turcott's presence on the athletic department goes far beyond just the basketball court.
"He is very strategic with his knowledge of coaching," Gross said. "He's an effective communicator, understands the the dynamics of motivation, has positive energy and you look at all of those things and think what a great role model he has been to our coaches.You take his wisdom, his integrity and his institutional knowledge and his passion for Carroll and then you begin to understand how much of an impact has had."
Turcott spent the first 19 years at Carroll coaching the Saints’ men’s basketball team and finished with a 376-223 combined record. During his tenure, he won seven Frontier Conference championships, made seven NAIA National Tournament appearances and a trip to the National Semifinals in 2005.
After announcing his retirement in 2009, it didn’t take long for him to get back on the bench when he became an assistant coach under new women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers in 2011.
He spent the last eight years helping the program claim two Frontier Conference championships, including this past season.
“He was really instrumental in me getting the head coaching job,” Sayers said.
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Turcott was no stranger to the Carroll campus when he was hired as its 30th men’s basketball coach in 1990. He earned his Bachelor’s degree there in 1968 before moving on to the University of Montana to get a master’s degree in counseling.
His first coaching job came at 32 years old, when he became and spent 11 seasons as the Great Falls boys basketball coach.
Though he was happy there, there was no way he could pass up a job coaching at his alma mater.
“While I was at Great Falls, I knew eventually I wanted to be the coach at Carroll,” Turcott said. “The first time I applied for the job, I didn’t get it.”
After finally landing the job four years later, he spent the next decade leading the Saints on a roller coaster ride of success. Turcott managed 14 wins his first season and one year later was named Frontier Conference coach of the year, but he made the NAIA National Tournament just once that decade.
Turcott’s teams finally found consistent success in the early 2000s when he won conference championships in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008 and received automatic berths to the NAIA National Tournament.
His 2005 team, led by current Carroll men’s basketball coach, Kurt Paulson, finished with 28 wins before losing to John Brown in the National Semifinals, 73-60.
“I’m so happy for him, but I’m a little bit selfishly sad that he’s not going to be around daily,” Paulson said.
Turcott said he looks forward to what his retirement will bring him. He plans to concentrate on his health, take a trip to the British Isles and play a lot of golf.
But that doesn’t mean he will stop walking the halls of Carroll’s athletic department. He will always have a spot on the same couch he said he was retiring.
“I got a great education here but, more importantly, it’s the quality of people that this school attracts,” Turcott said. “I’ve gotten to be around a lot of great people, and that’s what really has been special.”