BOISE, Idaho — Montana State’s season came to an end Thursday night, and now the decision-making process regarding Brian Fish’s future as coach begins.
The 2018-19 season was Fish’s fifth at MSU, and his contract expires June 30. Does he stay or does he go?
Athletic director Leon Costello and Montana State’s administration will make that determination.
Following the Bobcats’ 90-84 quarterfinal loss to Eastern Washington at the Big Sky Conference tournament at CenturyLink Arena, Fish said he wants to remain in Bozeman.
“It’s something that Leon and I will sit down and talk about,” Fish said. “I want to be here. I love coaching it. I love where the program’s at.”
Costello has so far declined to comment.
The Bobcats finished the 2018-19 season with a 15-17 overall record and won 11 games in the Big Sky — 12 if you include the first-round tourney victory over Idaho, which marked the program’s first postseason victory in a decade.
MSU rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit against Eastern Washington late in the quarterfinal round but couldn't complete the comeback. Nevertheless, Fish seemed encouraged with the season as a whole.
“The strides that they made on winning basketball games ... we picked an incredibly tough schedule to give us some things in league play that worked out in our favor,” Fish said. “We built this thing. I’m totally indebted to these guys.
“We got a tournament win, and hadn’t done that in 10 years. We got 12 league wins and stuff like that. I want to be here. That’s something that Leon and I will keep private between us and we’ll sit and talk about it, but make no mistake, I want to be here.”
Cumulatively to this point at MSU, Fish has a .414 overall winning percentage (65-92) and is .457 (42-50) in regular-season Big Sky games. Fish is 1-4 in the postseason.
During the season, guard Tyler Hall became the all-time leading scorer both at MSU and in the Big Sky, and finished his career with the 62nd-most points (2,518) and ninth-most 3-pointers (431) in the history of Division I.
The program also benefited from the skyrocketing development of junior Harald Frey, who has established himself as one of the best guards in the league, and the strides of sophomore big man Devin Kirby, who redshirted last season.
“As far as the program, it’s headed in the right direction,” Hall offered during an interview before the tournament.
“I’ve always said the locker room is one of the funnest places to be, because (of) all the stuff that’s going on in the world out there, the locker room is the truth,” Fish said. “You can’t be fake when you walk in the locker room.
“If you don’t work hard or you’re not a good person or something like that, the locker room smokes it out. And we had a great locker room.”
The past month been especially difficult personally for Fish, whose 29-year-old daughter Caryssa died in Florida in February.
Fish said the team has put him on its shoulders — particularly Hall and fellow seniors Sam Neumann and Keljin Blevins — during a time of grief.
“Beyond everything, a month ago I was faced with reality of losing a child,” Fish said. “Not sure I was going to make it. Not sure I wanted to get out of bed. I leaned on these three guys and they carried us.
“You’re looking at three guys that are going to graduate in May, you’re looking at three guys that cared about the entire program, you’re looking at three guys that Montana State meant the world to. To be a part of that — a small part of that — man, I’ll never forget that.
“I’m so appreciative and so indebted to these guys. I just love them and I know they love me. And that’s not a word I toss around a lot. But you can feel it, and it’s something we truly enjoyed, being together.”