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Trageser picked to lead Flathead High boys basketball

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | May 23, 2023 8:45 AM

After much delay and little more than a week before summer basketball camp season, Flathead High School has selected a head boys coach: Dan Trageser.

Flathead activities director Bryce Wilson announced the selection via email Monday. Trageser’s hiring is pending school board approval.

Wilson was part of an interview committee that included assistant principal Andrew Stiger, Flathead girls basketball coach Sam Tudor, Flathead boys track coach Dan Hodge and Flathead alum Mark Pirrie.

It was thought the group on April 21 had made their selection to replace Dirk Johnsrud: His departure after three seasons came on March 24. Instead the decision dragged on.

“The committee interviewed five quality coaching applicants,” Wilson’s statement reads. “Dan had the most varsity coaching experience of the five candidates. He will give a fresh start to the program as he has recently returned to the Flathead valley. His passion to help our students compete throughout the year was clear. He wants to develop our program at all levels and within the Flathead community partner schools.”

Trageser has spent the past school year teaching physical education at Russell Elementary School. A 2005 graduate of Stillwater Christian, he got his teaching degree from Florida Southern — “About as far away as I could get from Kalispell,” he said — and then returned home and began coaching and teaching at Kila School in 2010.

He would leave the state again after spending two seasons as freshman girls basketball coach at Flathead from 2015-17, first for head coach Lisa Hendrickson and then Tricia Dean.

“At that point I knew I wanted to be a head coach and lead a program,” he said Monday. “I literally just made the decision one day. I gave three weeks notice, and took a chance on myself. And now it’s gone full-circle.”

His head coaching resume consists of three successful seasons with the Casteel High girls basketball team, within the Chandler, Arizona school district. His last team, in 2020-21, was 17-0 and had won a game at the 5A conference tournament when its season was suddenly halted.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association ruled Trageser had violated a prior contact rule involving a club team he helped that also involved potential Casteel players.

The alleged violation occurred a year earlier, and though Trageser was not coaching anyone on the club team then, he was found in violation of AIA rules.

“Essentially because I had a title with a club organization,” said Trageser, who feels Casteel would have cruised to a state title. “They have since gone back and rewritten that rule. I still think about that team, daily.”

Seven of the 12 Casteel players had college scholarship opportunities, a statistic Trageser enjoys. Growing up, he said, his coaches were father figures because his own dad had passed away when he was young.

“I knew right away I wanted to get into coaching,” said the 36-year-old, who played hoops for Stillwater Christian. “Even in high school, I enjoyed working with kids and wanted to work with kids. My coaches were always people that had a big impact on my life. Kind of seemed like a no-brainer.”

Trageser resigned from Casteel, spent a year coaching the high-level Phoenix PHH traveling team for a year, then came back again to the Flathead Valley. He has been running a basketball program (theprocessbball.com) in Montana.

The PHH team gave Trageser a little more exposure to boys basketball, not that he’s concerned.

“I think good basketball translates at every level,” he said. “There are different things you incorporate with the boys game, but a lot of it is the same. Play with pace, move the ball, have a teamwork philosophy — buying into the greater success of the team. Those things carry over.”

The Montana High School Association allows in-person coaching of high school basketball from June 1-July 31.

“I met with the players this (Monday) morning,” Trageser said. “Mr. Wilson introduced me and we’re going to hit the ground running as soon as we can. We have some open gyms scheduled, and the Helena Capital AA Jamboree is June 3-4.

“A lot of this summer is getting to know them and getting them to fit into the style of basketball we’re going to play. It’s definitely going to be a feeling out process. My first priority is building relationships and gaining their trust, and letting them know we have the same goals as a program.”