Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pinkerton, Griz Ready to Go

When the Montana Grizzlies take the field in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Thursday, it will be the biggest moment in the program’s history. Of course, it will also be the only moment in the program’s history, and Jamie Pinkerton, the Griz’s head coach, will finally get to see the on-field fruits of a year-and-a-half’s hard work.
Jamie Pinkerton is a proven
winner; will that success continue
with the Griz?

Pinkerton has assembled a roster of twenty players - Fifteen of them are true freshmen fresh out of high school, while four of the remaining players transferred in to the program. Lone senior Kenzie Cole left Boise State to join the Griz.

This is not Pinkerton’s first foray into the coaching world; rather, far from it. Formerly the head coach at Tulsa and Arkansas, he’s also marked stops as an assistant at Louisiana-Monroe, Virginia, and most recently, Iowa State before joining the Griz in the fall of 2013.

“I was ready to be a head coach again,” he said, noting one of many factors he says enticed him about the then-just-beginning Griz program. Having turned the fortunes of the Golden Hurricane around in a very short span during his time in Tulsa, Pinkerton is no stranger to rebuilding fallen programs. Building one from the ground up, though, is a new thing for this experienced coach.

“Everything involved with being the architect of a program – from ordering the first uniforms to designing a field – have really been new things for me, “ Pinkerton shares. “But it’s exciting.”

The Griz won’t play their first home games until mid-March, and that’s smart scheduling on Pinkerton’s part… any earlier and they might not have a place to play. As their home field is still being completed and the turf laid, the Griz will travel to Las Cruces; San Diego; Ruston, Louisiana; Stockton, California; Boise; and Fresno before coming home to take the field for the first time in Missoula.

Pinkerton has gained a reputation as a program rebuilder, a coach with a good softball mind and a knack for taking the seemingly-lowest of teams and turning them into success stories. Since he turned around the Tulsa program, the Golden Hurricane have yet to see a losing season.

Pinkerton’s track record has not gone unnoticed amongst his peers; one coach told me, “Jamie doesn’t get the praise as one of the best in the business, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many better.”

Predictions for the Griz, as one might expect, are fairly low; they were picked seventh of eight teams in the conference coach’s preseason poll. Games against top-notch opponents including Texas Tech, Nebraska, Fresno State, and conference foe Idaho State highlight the schedule.

Fan support for Griz athletics has never been an issue; the school’s football program has previously led the Division 1 FCS level in average game attendance, bringing in at one point roughly 1/3 of the 60,000 Missoula population. That same rabid fandom has translated to the softball program – Pinkerton recounts that more than 700 fans attended his team’s first “fall ball” game last September.

Pinkerton doesn’t know what to expect on Thursday or at any point this season, but if gut feelings are to be believed, he might just have another winner on his hands: “We’re going to have peaks and valleys, but I feel really good about this team.”

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