Whitefish High School graduate Kurt Paulson is coming home to Montana as the men’s basketball coach at Carroll College.
Paulson accepted the job April 12, returning to his alma mater after serving as the head coach for the Oregon State University’s mens basketball program for the last four years.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s kind of coming full circle and it’ll be a good thing because I can really sell the school and program because I really lived it,” Paulson told the Pilot. “I can really give the recruits a good perspective of what it will be like in the basketball program because I’ve been through it before as a player and coach.”
Since graduating from Whitefish in 2001, Paulson played for Carroll and graduated with degree in Business Administration and Health and Physical Education, starting on high-achieving teams like Gary Turcott’s 2005 NAIA Semifinal team and the 2006 NAIA Quarterfinal team.
After graduation, he served as an assistant coach at the school before becoming a graduate coach at the University of Montana. He was the activities director and boys basketball head coach at Bigfork High School and returned to UM as an assistant coach for the 2013-14 season before heading to Oregon State.
Back home in Whitefish, he’s been a member of the WHS Coaches Hall of Fame since 2011. His father, Kent Paulson, was a longtime principal and vice principal for the high school as well.
Paulson said he hasn’t had much time with his new roster yet, and having just arrived in Helena, but he’s excited to bring his pride for the Carroll program to the players.
“I know I’m going to have a ton of enthusiasm, passion for the program. Just my pride in playing at Carroll, I can sell that everyday. Just to get these guys to buy into the program and play for each other, for their families and all the people who have worn the Carroll uniform before them. That’s what I’m going to stress with these guys,” Paulson said.
“I’m very fresh with getting to know them, they’re getting to know me.”
Nevertheless, the team has already made their goals for next season clear to Paulson.
Last season the team went 28-6 overall and 13-5 in conference play. They won their first game in the NAIA National Tournament before falling to Our Lady of the Lake University in and overtime thriller in the second round.
“The players told me they want to win a national championship, so that’s our goal coming in. We’ve got to sign a few more players to get a full roster, and then we’ve got to hit the ground running right where Coach Cunningham left off, and then we’ve got to get right to work because there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Paulson said he hasn’t been able to get back home in Whitefish to see family as much as he’d like recently, but that may change in the future.
“I haven’t spent enough time there the last four or five years, but now that we’re back in the state, I’d love to get out in that area in the offseason, do some recruiting up there and of course see my family who still lives in Whitefish,” he said.
He’s been busy amassing a solid coaching resume, but Paulson credits his coaches and experiences at Whitefish High School with building the foundations for the coach he is now.
“I was very lucky to come through Whitefish High School and have some great coaches. All sports — Julio Delgado, Tom Bertlesen, Derek Schulz, Pat Cheff, Mike Verda — all those people who coached me at Whitefish and I’m very thankful for what they taught me and helping me become who I am in the coaching field. So that was a huge part getting to this point, having a good foundation at Whitefish, learning hard work, teamwork, putting the team first, all those concepts I learned from those guys,” Paulson said.
“I love coming back and seeing familiar faces, and I look forward to the chance of getting back more often now that I’m in the state.”