Griz Grit: Tinkle and Krystowiack

By MICK HOLIEN for the Flathead Beacon

Following a legend once is difficult enough, but to do it twice as both an athlete and a coach and with equal success is almost unimaginable.

But that’s just what Griz head basketball coach Wayne Tinkle has done. And let’s just say he’s entitled to sing the lyrics of the old Frank Sinatra song: “I did it my way.”

After a stellar career at Ferris High School in Spokane, Tinks, as he affectionately is known, came to the University of Montana in 1985 when Larry Krystowiak, the school’s leading career scorer and rebounder, was completing his record-setting All American career.

And the duo’s freshman seasons were eerily similar as they played in about the same number of games and contributed similar point outputs.

But when Tinkle arrived, Krystowiak was completing a monstrous final three seasons, not only winning the league MVP each year but also being named as an Associated Press honorable mention All American.

Wayne Tinkle AP Photo Douglas C. PizacIn fact, even if you discard his first season when he scored 137 points after appearing in 28 games, Krystowiak’s numbers would still stand at the top of the UM career list.

And in the four years of Krystowiak’s illustrious career, his Mike Montgomery-led team won at least 21 games and twice played but lost in the first round of the NIT.

When Tinkle finished his career he was UM’s fourth-leading scorer (now sixth), and was a back-to-back second team all-league selection on teams. He played one year under Montgomery and the final three under Stew Morrill – on teams that won no fewer than 18 games.

And at the completion of Tinkle’s playing career he trailed only Krystowiak and Ken McKenzie on the all-time rebounding list, easily furthering the argument that the torch was passed and Tinkle ran with it.

But that by no means is the end of the parallels.

Both players went on to professional careers – Krystowiak to a blue-collar NBA career and Tinkle to stellar overseas campaign.

And they both returned to the Missoula campus first as assistant coaches, then stepping up to the top job, Krystowiak succeeding Pat Kennedy and Tinkle stepping in when Krystowiak moved to an NBA job in Milwaukee.

Krystowiak’s teams won 42 games in his two years, advancing to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons and winning a first-round game in 2006.

With a recent win in Missoula over Eastern Washington, Tinkle registered his 100th career victory, fourth on the all-time list behind Jiggs Dahlberg (221), Mike Montgomery (154) and Blaine Taylor (142).

The conduit to the success stories is Montgomery, who succeeded Jud Heathcote and is now at California after a stellar career at Stanford. Heathcote put his mark on Griz hoops from 1971-76 before moving to Michigan State where he won the NCAA championship with Magic Johnson in 1979.

Tinkle and Krystowiak are destined to be linked in UM annals but now in his sixth season and coming off back-to-back 20-win campaigns and two postseason appearances, Tinkle has built his own legacy with aplomb.

Their style, players, family, assistant coaches and demeanors all are different, but there certainly is no disparity in their passion or desire to succeed.

“I faced it all and I stood tall,” sang Sinatra. “I did it my way.”


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Now in his 27th year of broadcasting University of Montana football or basketball games, award winning journalist Mick Holien has a unique and insightful perspective on collegiate athletics.