BILLINGS — Corbin Lonebear broke his school’s single-game scoring record on Dec. 20. The Dodson junior normally wouldn’t have known his point total until after the game, but he received updates throughout his 45-point performance against Nashua.
The person providing the updates was Skip Cole, the bus driver for Dodson’s boys and girls basketball teams. Cole also held the Coyotes’ previous single-game scoring record, and he watched Lonebear break it in front of him.
Cole, 56, was happy to see Lonebear top his record, hence the frequent updates. The game was one of Cole’s many fond memories in his short career as Dodson’s bus driver.
Cole graduated from Dodson in 1981. In January of that year, he broke his own school record with 44 points against Frazer, and he remembers it well. He shot 19-of-27 from the field and 6-of-10 from the free-throw line in a 99-88 loss, he said (the Coyotes got revenge against Frazer in the district tournament, boosted by Cole’s 39 points).
“I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did,” Cole said of his record.
After high school, Cole attended Montana State and joined the Air Force. He returned to Dodson, where he briefly worked as a highway patrolman before buying a bar and some cows, he said. Last year, he became a bus driver for Dodson.
Both Lonebear and Dodson junior point guard Kailee Henry have been struck by Cole’s energetic, welcoming personality. Few of Henry’s bus drivers have ever watched her games, she said. Not only does Cole watch the games, he keeps track of the Coyotes’ stats.
Cole tallied all of Lonebear’s points on Dec. 20, and he informed Lonebear of the record he broke.
“It put me right back to when I was playing. It was like a flashback,” Cole said. “He’s a really good kid. Very humble. He does not like to talk about himself.”
On Jan. 25, Henry flirted with the girls basketball school record in against Turner. The junior scored 41 points, two shy of the Dodson record set by her sister, Janessa, a few years ago.
Cole came up to Henry after the game, gave her a hug and told her how many points she scored. He also knew how many 3-pointers she made (eight), even a week later. Henry didn’t remember any of her stats other than points.
“He’s the most social (bus driver) I’ve had,” Henry said. “He’s there for us. He comes into the games and he cheers for us.”
Sometimes on rides home, players will sidle up next to Cole as he’s driving and break down that night’s game, he said, as if Cole was a coach. Before games, the boys basketball players exchange fist bumps with Cole as they enter the bus.
Not every player shares a specific connection with Cole like Lonebear, but Cole doesn’t need to see his record broken to invest in the players he shuttles around.
“It’s the best job ever,” Cole said. “You get to haul the kids, you get to watch them, get to see the ups and the downs. Lots of high fives and hugs.”