062521-mis-nws-Joslyn Tinkle

Joslyn Tinkle, who was recently hired as an assistant coach for the Montana women's basketball team, has been "blown away" by the support shown by Lady Griz fans and former players. Tinkle is a Missoula basketball icon, with a career that included multiple State AA titles at Big Sky and fruitful careers both at Stanford and in the pro ranks overseas.

MISSOULA — If you were thinking maybe Joslyn Tinkle might be reserved in her first season as a Montana Lady Griz assistant basketball coach, think again.

She's got a fiery side that's easy to understand, knowing her past. It's a little bit Wayne Tinkle, a little Tara VanDerveer and maybe even a little bit Robin Selvig after growing up watching the legendary coach of the Lady Griz.

"My fellow staff has already given me a hard time because those that have seen me at Oregon State (men's) games, my dad's games, know I'm not quiet," Joslyn said playfully. "I'm loud. I'm passionate. I'm cheery. I'm crazy on the sideline.

"I'm going to have to dial it down a little in this position, not just be a fan. But I'm definitely thinking I'm going to bring a lot of energy and passion to our sideline for sure."

Chalk it up as another reason to be excited about head coach Brian Holsinger's first season at the helm for UM. Joslyn is a Missoula-raised women's basketball icon, with a proud past that includes back-to-back State AA championships at Missoula Big Sky, three Final Four appearances and one finals appearance under VanDerveer at Stanford.

Holsinger knew exactly what he was getting into when he hired Tinkle. And the idea of her anxiously prowling the sidelines in Maroon & Silver brings a smile to his face.

"We were really close as far as a staff at Oregon State," he related, alluding to his days as an OSU assistant women's coach and his relationship with Wayne Tinkle, the beloved former Montana men's basketball coach. "I got to know Wayne really well and seeing (Joslyn) at the games, sometimes I'm like, 'OK, she's going after the refs. She's up and yelling.'

"Between Jordan and Jos," he added, referring to Montana fifth-year assistant and former player Jordan Sullivan, "I'm going to have to tie them down on the bench, I think. I'm kidding of course. They're both fiery and competitive and I want that."

The elephant in the room for longtime Lady Griz fans is the unavoidable heartbreak Joslyn caused by choosing Stanford over Montana back in 2008. For all the success she enjoyed as a Cardinal — Stanford went 71-1 in Pac-10/12 games and won four league tournament titles in her time there — there's still that lingering question about what if for Montana fans and Tinkle.

Knowing it's in the back of Joslyn's mind somehow makes her even easier to like for the Lady Griz faithful.

"I've even seen Rob (Selvig) a couple times since being back in Missoula and I have the utmost respect and love for that man," she shared. "I mean, obviously my mom played for him and he recruited me. It was a hard decision going to Stanford. My family was here in Missoula. I grew up in this program.

"(Wednesday) night I went to a Lady Griz function and I saw ladies I grew up idolizing. I know I would have loved my experience playing for a legend like Rob. I don't regret my decision and I earned a couple degrees. But I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it. What would have happened if I was a Lady Griz? At the end of the day I think I've always been a Lady Griz at heart."

While introductions have been a pleasure for Tinkle the past two weeks, the cold, hard realities of life as an NCAA Division I assistant coach will begin to set in when she hits the July recruiting trail. There's a lot to learn but Tinkle has a support system that's hard to beat.

"She's been doing a normal job, so to speak, so coaching is not normal," Holsinger noted. "Me and her dad both were like, 'Are you sure this is what you want to do?'

"But she really loves the game and really loves kids. She will tell you her other job was great, but she just didn't feel this passion. She believes this is it and I believe it. She's super-gifted with people and will learn the coaching stuff."

Initially, Joslyn will lean on what she's learned from her dad and VanderVeer along with what she sees from Holsinger every day.

"I've got plenty of Wayne-isms and Tara-isms," she joked. "Sometimes I'll be saying something how my dad has taught me and I kind of in my head think, 'Ah, I sound like my dad.'

"I've been fortunate to play and learn under Tara, the winningest coach in college history. But I think my dad is a great coach and I've been lucky to be raised in his household. I learned a lot and sat in on practices and workouts and was up close and center for his games."

Tinkle said she thought about coaching as far back as 2016 when she retired from her professional playing career overseas. She held off because she wanted to be near family in Oregon while her brother, Tres, starred for the Beavers. She started looking around last year and had opportunities, but none compared to helping guide the Lady Griz.

Now that the learning process has started, she knows she has work to do building rapport with the players. They're a little too young to remember her high school success and may not even know much about her Stanford days.

To the players' credit — some of whom have been mentored by three head coaches in three years — the experience has been quite pleasant for Tinkle.

"We've had a few practices this week already and they've been awesome," Joslyn said. "Coming into it I'm a little nervous too, meeting them. They don't know me.

"But right away they were all super welcoming. It's such an honor for me to even be a part of this program. That first even just sit-in practice, I called my mom and dad afterwards and said, 'This is it. I feel like I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm where I'm supposed to be.'  

Where it goes from here is anyone's guess. Joslyn may have been a tremendous player in her prime, but like Selvig used to say, coaches aren't the ones out there on the floor shooting baskets. It's up to Holsinger and assistants Tinkle, Sullivan and Nate Harris to build a winner in the ever-improving Big Sky Conference.

Veteran coaches from places like Montana State, Idaho and Idaho State aren't going to be showing any mercy when the Lady Griz hit the floor this winter. But a lot of fans and former Lady Griz players believe the Montana program is headed in the right direction.

Maybe, just maybe, their take on the situation is right on the money.

For now at least, Joslyn will tell you it's nice to feel the love. 

"I've been so blown away and floored and thankful for everyone that has been super supportive," she said.

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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