HELENA — Troy Purcell said taking over as the Carroll College football coach is his dream job during his introductory press conference Friday morning.
For the Saints, they hope he’s their dream coach.
It’s been a while since Carroll College was atop the NAIA with six national titles and 14 Frontier Conference championships. After four straight losing seasons, the program needs a jump-start.
Athletic director Charlie Gross feels confident he made the right choice. And from the looks of it, he may have found the right person to take over after legendary 20-year coach Mike Van Diest retired last month.
“No one likes transition,” Gross said. “As a society, we try to avoid that. It creates angst and uncertainty in times of interim, where questions don’t get answered. To put an exclamation point to say we have our man, we have a future, we have someone who will lead these group of young men is very reassuring.”
Carroll College needs a coach committed to the program for it to be a success. That is what Gross has found in Purcell.
The coach cannot use the Saints as a steppingstone to a bigger and better job. Programs with unstable coaching situations are doomed to inconsistency and mediocrity.
Van Diest was a Helena High alum, and the city was his home as a child. He could talk to recruits personally about what it’s like to play football in the area, and be part of the community.
Purcell has that kind of inside knowledge of Helena and Carroll College, maybe even more so than Van Diest. Purcell graduated from Capital High and Carroll College. He played football for the Saints before Van Diest was the coach.
“It’s more important about fit with Carroll,” Gross said of bringing in a local person to coach. “The candidate we hire understands Carroll, understands the type of student we want to recruit and represent us. To understand the role Carroll has in the community that appreciates the tradition of football. When you create your profile (for applicants), that’s one of the check boxes you want to make sure the candidate has a full understanding of that.”
Gross liked that Purcell graduated from Carroll and is a Helena native. In addition to Purcell’s football knowledge and experience, that part of the resume stood out.
It was also noted that many resumes came in for the job, including some impressive ones. However, Gross sought someone with a passion for the area and program and not a cut-and-paste application from someone to see if it sticks.
Purcell can now recruit players and speak from his experience playing in the program and going to class in the same buildings. Even the religious aspect of the campus is close to his heart.
“Through the whole process, we had Troy at the top of our list,” said senior safety Parker Bernhardt, who was on the search committee. "It wasn’t unanimous, but he was on the top of our list, one through five. And getting to know him more, I like the things he’s saying and what he’s going to bring.”
Purcell planned to hit the recruiting trail this weekend. What makes good coaches at the college level is their ability to recruit, and the Saints need an influx of talent.
He’s familiar with Montana athletes from his coaching past and with those from Idaho and Washington from working at Idaho. His recent NCAA Division I position will look good to players.
Purcell knows some Division I-caliber athletes the Vandals were looking at, and he’ll try to convince to come to Carroll College.
For an NAIA level program, even though a storied one, off the beaten path, Gross found his ideal fit.
“He’s talked about, not a culture shift, but a little bit of a re-amplification of it,” Bernhardt said. “These last few years, the on-the-field record has been slouching. That’s translated into the culture slightly. He wants to come in and bring in positive vibes and energy. And that’s something we can use.”