HELENA — Carroll College men’s basketball coach Kurt Paulson sits in his office and leans back in his chair.
In front of him is a white board with a phrase at the very top.
“Don’t cut corners,” Paulson reads. “Coach Turcott taught me that.”
Longtime Carroll basketball coach Gary Turcott announced his retirement on Thursday afternoon, but he didn’t leave without making an impact throughout the athletic department.
“It was just doing something as small as just picking up a gum wrapper off the floor,” Paulson said. “He has such a unique perspective, not only on basketball, but life.”
Paulson played under Turcott for five years. Now, 13 years later, Paulson is sitting behind the desk, following the same path as his mentor did so many years ago.
But the passage of time won’t stop a coach from checking in on his players from time to time to make sure they are doing all right.
Turcott walked in and asked how the youth basketball camps were going.
Just like when he was running the point for Turcott’s offense, Paulson takes time to stop and listen to direction from his mentor.
“He never overlooked the details,” Paulson said. “He always made sure we prepared correctly and was never afraid to make changes.”
Paulson took that last bit of advice to heart, especially this last season.
It was almost a year and a half ago that Paulson was hired to take over the men’s basketball program.
The Saints finished with 28 wins and made it to the program’s first National Championship game.
Even Turcott didn’t get that far.
Throughout Paulson’s inaugural season that featured ups and downs and a team riddled with injuries, the Saints kept winning.
All the time, Paulson kept his former coach’s teachings close to his heart.
Carroll entered the Frontier Conference Championship game against Lewis-Clark State this past March with confidence. It never lost at the PE Center.
The Saints lost that game 76-60. With the NAIA National Tournament a week away, Paulson thought back to what his coach would do.
“I just flipped the script on practice,” Paulson said. “We weren’t playing well and I decided we needed to go to a high energy, no breaks practice. All we did was play.”
Carroll extended its stay in Kansas City to a week. Though it lost the championship to Georgetown College, the method worked.
A change on the fly like this was nothing new to Paulson. His first introduction came when he was still a player.
“It wasn’t the same every year,” Paulson said. “You didn’t do something the same way every time just because that was the way you had to do it. He adapted practices, weight training and what we were doing on the court. Obviously, it works.”
Turcott has not only made an impact with the men’s team, but it didn’t take long before he was helping the women’s basketball team, too.
Carroll women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers met Turcott for the first time during her interview for the coaching program eight years ago.
"We were talking hoops the whole time, and when we were walking out of that dinner, (Gary) turned to me and said, ‘Coach you got this job,’” Sayers said. “I simply responded, ‘Well, that makes me feel really good, but you aren’t on the hiring committee.’”
Sayers made a deal with Turcott that if she got the job, she would hire him as her top assistant. After all, he did coach the men’s team for 19 years.
Sayers said at the time she was kind of joking, but the rest was history that turned into a successful tandem, pushing the Saints to a pair of Frontier Conference Tournament titles.
“I can’t imagine where I would be without him,” Sayers said. “He taught me the ropes of being a head coach.”
Over the next eight seasons together, Sayers will tell you that she was more of the uptight one. It was her first head coaching job.
All she had to do was look down her bench and see Turcott.
“There are so many things that are distracting and so many things that need to get done, but when I’m at my wits end, he always asked one thing, ‘Did you make your team better?’” Sayers said. “That really helped me stay focused.”
Turcott may be replacing his clipboard with a new set of golf clubs that you can find him using at Green Meadow Golf Course, but his legacy lives on in the PE Center.
Both Paulson and Sayers know Turcott will always be there for them, as he will peek his head in from time and time. Relationships like that can never be broken.
Turcott will be the first to tell you that.
“I will always have them, it just has changed,” Turcott said.