Legendary coach Terry Thomas announces retirement

By 
J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, January 18, 2023

During boys’ basketball practice on Jan. 12, Terry Thomas told his players that this will be his last year coaching the Dillon Beavers. After 31 years in education and coaching, 27 of which were in Dillon, the Montana Coaches Association and National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee suddenly entered the late fourth quarter of his coaching career.

Needless to say, the word spread as fast as a Troy Andersen sprint, across the state and likely further thanks to the Internet and cellular telephones. The phones and email at the Dillon Tribune asked, “Is it true?”

An army of Thomas friends are scrambling to organize a tribute to the coach, and the first of what will likely be many acknowledgements of his outstanding contributions to the student-athletes of Beaverhead County High School will occur during and after Thomas’ last home basketball game at B.W. Lodge. On Feb. 4, Dillon will host Hamilton for a doubleheader. For the boys team it will be Senior Night. For longtime Beaver fans, it will be the last time they will watch Dillon’s all-time greatest coach work his magic.

Following the game, the coach will gather for a group photograph with the people that lived the journey with him. Thomas will pose on Finny Court with first former players, both football and basketball, that attend the game, and then second, with former assistant coaches in the sports that he has coached at BCHS. The pictures will be taken from the elevated second level of B.W. Lodge Gym. Organizers emphasize that there is an open invitation to the former players and coaches.

The Thomas legacy is certainly one of winning, but he is appreciated and respected for the dignified and sportsmanlike way he and his teams have conducted themselves through his 27-year career in Dillon.

Thomas coached Beaver football for 27 seasons and posted a 189-65 record with five Montana Class A state championships, and two state championship runner-up finishes in seven state title game appearances between 2000 and 2012. His teams advanced to the playoffs in 17 seasons. He was Montana Coaches Association “Coach of the Year” five times and a finalist for the award another five times. He was named Southwestern A “Coach of the Year” 10 times.

In basketball his teams posted a 311-71 record through 17 seasons, an average record of 18-4, and with yet another successful season underway. His teams have made 12 state tournament appearances, have advanced to the championship game nine times and have claimed five Montana Class A state championship titles. In addition to the four second place finishes the team placed third in 2008.

He has been honored as the Montana Coaches Association “Coach of the Year” five times, named a finalist for the award another five times, Southwestern A “Coach of the Year” 12 times and has been a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association “Basketball Coach of the Year” twice, in 2016 and 2019.

Thomas has recently been nominated to represent Montana for the 2022-23 National High School Athletic Coaches Association “Coach of the Year.”

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