To say 2004 CBHS graduate Keithan Gregg had a successful athletic career during his time in Cut Bank would be quite an understatement.
Keithan earned four individual State Tennis titles, three State Tennis team championships, a State Basketball championship and numerous district and divisional championships during his four-year high school career. He went on to play both college tennis and basketball and then went on to coach both at the high school level as well.
Keithan also coached at the college level at the University of Great Falls, now University of Providence, and is currently coaching at Portland State University (PSU) as an assistant with the women’s program. And just like he did during his days roaming the halls of CBHS, he is winning championships.
Keithan and his PSU squad claimed the Big Sky Conference championship in March, earning them a trip to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and a chance to be front and center in March Madness.
Portland State earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a 61-59 win over Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Conference championship game.
Keithan, who has been surrounded by sports for as long as he can remember, knew for a long time that he wanted to be a coach, but it was during his time at UGF that he started to seriously consider his new career.
“When I finally realized I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball after college, going into my senior year I knew I wanted to coach,” he said. “I knew I wanted to coach, I just didn’t know what level would be best for me.”
Going to practice has always been a part of Gregg’s routine; his father Jim has been a long time fixture on the sidelines for the tennis and basketball teams. The fall and winter seasons were spent in the H.C. Davis and Willie DeGroot Gymnasiums and the spring and summer seasons were spent on the public tennis courts.
“Every fall and every winter for as long as I could remember, going to practice has been a part of my life and I couldn’t imagine giving that up,” said Keithan. “It started as something that I could do because it was familiar, but it became about so much more. I now get a chance to make an impact and a difference every single day with outstanding student-athletes.”
Keithan is one of CBHS’s most decorated athletes with his individual and team accolades, and is one of the few who have tasted championship success at multiple levels.
“Winning a championship is fun at any level, whether you are a player or a coach,” he said. “As a player, I always felt like I was in control with the ball in my hands. I could make a shot, throw a pass, or try to make a play to help my team win. Once you get inside the lines, it was time to just play and do your thing.”
He continued, “As a coach, it can be quite…stressful. You do your best to try to prepare your student-athletes, put them in a position to be successful and hope that they rise to the occasion and carry out the game plan.”
For Keithan, the biggest transition was getting used to the feeling of not being in control. “When you are coaching, once the game starts and your players are in between the lines, it’s up to them to get the job done.”
So where does a collegiate Big Sky Championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament as a coach rank for Keithan among his numerous high school championships?
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “It is such a different feeling as to winning a State Championship in high school. Winning an undefeated championship with our best friends who played for so long with one common goal was pretty sweet.”
As a coach, watching the growth and development of his players was a feeling he’ll never forget. “Our players worked so hard, stuck with the game plan and believed that they could get it done. To watch it unfold in front of me made me so happy for them. It was their moment and they didn’t shy away. To say I am a proud coach is quite the understatement.”
Keithan’s squad was guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament with their Big Sky win. They were sent to Eugene, Ore., as a 15-seed for the first two rounds of the tournament. They opened with the No. 2 seeded Oregon Ducks.
Oregon had been ranked as the top team in the nation during a portion of the regular season and featured one of the top players in America in All-American guard Sabrina Ionescu.
As a defensive coach for PSU, Keithan was charged with coming up with a game plan to stop the high scoring Ducks.
“It was definitely a new experience for me,” said the coach. “Oregon was the top-ranked team in the country and Ionescu is the best player I have ever seen up close and personal. What separates her from other players is her will to win.”
PSU was defeated 78-40 by Oregon to end their season. The Ducks would advance to the Final Four before losing in the national semifinal to eventual champion Baylor.
While PSU fell to Oregon, the experience will be something to remember for Keithan and his squad.
“It was electric! Over 6,500 people were in attendance and they were rocking,” said the coach. “It was great to see the support for not only Oregon but for women’s basketball. There is nothing quite like seeing ESPN trucks at the end of the tunnel when you drive into the stadium. Seeing the locker rooms and having our players doing the press conferences and watching them enjoy that moment was special.”
Also special for Gregg was sharing the moment with his wife, Chelsey, who also coaches at PSU. The couple enjoyed their team’s success and Chelsey even was able to experience the Final Four in Tampa, Fla., while Keithan stayed behind to tend to the couple’s bulldog puppy. Their puppy is named Maya Moore, after the “greatest women’s basketball player ever” according to Gregg.
While the season may have ended with a first round loss for Gregg and his PSU Vikings, he wasted little time getting back to work when the team returned home.
“Recruiting is an ongoing process for us,” he said. “We are pretty much attached to our phones, calling and answering emails as well as running down leads on prospective student-athletes.”
In the spring, the NCAA only allows coaches to go out and watch players and recruit one weekend in April, one weekend in May and then again in July. So while the Greggs haven’t been physically on the road recruiting they have been spending numerous hours trying to find the next wave of Portland State Vikings.
“After we lost on that Friday night, we came back to Portland and I watched men’s and women’s games on Saturday and Sunday and was right back to work on Monday. Winning the Big Sky tournament was an awesome feeling, but we don’t want it to be a one-time feeling. You can’t win without great student-athletes that can get it done both in the classroom and on the floor and it’s our jobs to go find them.”
Gregg has coached at both the high school and college level but says the best part of coaching at the collegiate level is the players he gets to work with every day.
“Being around people that want to be coached, and want to be better and are willing to work every day to make that happen brings out something special. They only have one shot at playing college basketball and making the most out of it.”
As one of their coaches, Keithan believes “it is up to me to help maximize their strengths and continue to develop their weaknesses. Basketball is truly a beautiful game that can teach a person so much about life, the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Basketball is a great teacher and being able to help student-athletes grow as people is what it is truly all about and it’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.”
While Keithan is happy in his current position with Portland State, he believes that someday he will be a head coach in the college ranks.
“I truly believe I will head coach, someday. I believe in myself and I know when the right opportunity presents itself, I will be able to take that opportunity and succeed.”
He continued, “The game of basketball has been so good to me, and has given me lifelong friends and memories that I will forever be grateful for. I would love to stay in the college ranks and coach, but the level isn’t the most important thing. For me, I want to make a difference and I want to be where I’m wanted. Being a head coach is something I think about, but right now the focus is to be the best assistant and the best recruiter possible.”
If Keithan or Chelsey were to be lured away from PSU he knows they would still love to be on the same staff together, if the opportunity was available.
“We have always told each other that if that wasn’t the case, then whoever has the best opportunity coaching-wise, the other person would be 100 percent supportive. Luckily, we haven’t had to test that out yet.”
Keithan said, “I love going to work with her every day, and I love that she shares the same passion for basketball and for helping young players grow and succeed both on and off the basketball floor. We truly are lucky.”