Rocky Mountain College vs. Carroll College

Rocky women's basketball coach Wes Keller instructs his players during a game against Carroll on Jan. 15, 2020, at the Fortin Center in Billings.

BILLINGS — After two weeks of questions and uncertainty surrounding its women's basketball program, Rocky Mountain College reinstated head coach Wes Keller on Thursday.

Rocky made the announcement in a school-issued press release, saying it had completed a comprehensive review of the program.

Keller was placed on administrative leave earlier this month, according to sources, after some players complained to RMC's administration about what they said are Keller's aggressive coaching methods.

Keller will resume his duties effective immediately, the release stated.

“We have complete confidence that coach Keller is the right leader for our women’s basketball program,” Rocky president Bob Wilmouth was quoted in the release.

Attempts to reach Keller have been unsuccessful. The Rocky athletic department said it will have no further comment about the situation because it does not speak on personnel matters.

When reached by phone later Thursday, Wilmouth would not specify any reasons for Keller being placed on leave “out of respect for the team, for the college, for Wes.”

Wilmouth did say that the decision wasn't taken lightly.

“Our college, we operate with an abundance of caution with everything we do,” he said. “That includes me. From the top down. And when concerns get brought up we investigate (them) fully.

“I am just so pleased that Wes Keller is back as being the head women’s basketball coach. But this process, this abundance of caution, applies to everyone.”

Keller was not in attendance for Rocky's crosstown games against Montana State Billings on Feb. 10 and Feb. 17. The team previously forfeited two games against Montana Western that were scheduled for Feb. 6-7 in Dillon.

Rocky had lined up a pair of designated non-league games at Carroll College to make up for canceled road games versus Montana Tech Feb 13-14, but those never materialized.

Assistants Brett Morehouse and Markaela Francis guided the program in Keller's absence. Morehouse served as Rocky's de facto head coach in the games against MSU Billings, a 70-68 defeat at the Fortin Center and a 69-57 loss at MSUB's Alterowitz Gymnasium.

The Bears are scheduled to finish the regular season at home with games this Saturday and Sunday against Providence. The games will be part of doubleheaders with the men's teams each day.

Rocky was without eight players during Keller's hiatus, including top scorers Kloie Thatcher, Shauna Bribiescas, Mackenzie Dethman, Grace Parker and Izzy Spruit. The other players who did not suit up were were Adonica Baca-Martinez, Katelyn Ostrowski and N'Dea Flye.

There is no indication yet when or if any those players will return this season or in the future.

Sources indicated previously that some Rocky players chose not to practice or play during Keller's absence as a show of solidarity with their coach.

Wilmouth said he did not know the status of the roster.

“I do not know the answer to that. I'm not privy to that. I don’t know what that plan is,” Wilmouth offered. “I trust our department and leadership on what we’re going to do going forward.

“But personally that did disappoint me” that some players opted not to play, he said.

Email Greg Rachac at Greg.Rachac@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac

Load comments