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United Tribes Men’s Basketball will enter a new era this season as Pete Conway, a well-known name in the Native American basketball communities around the west and Midwest, will take over as Head Men’s Basketball Coach. Conway, who is a Blackfeet Indian, had previously coached for three seasons at fellow NJCAA school Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana. While leading Little Big Horn’s program, Conway amassed the most wins in school history and guided the team to its first ever appearance in the prestigious Region IX Tournament which is home to some of the finest Division I junior colleges in the country.
Conway’s basketball success is easy to follow as he has left a lasting impression beginning with his standout high school career at Montana power Billings West High School. Conway was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Montana in 1998. He opted to play his college basketball at NCAA Division I Montana State where he played on the school’s Big Sky Conference Championship Team in 2002 and was named All-Conference in 2003. Conway left Montana State with the second most three-pointers made in school history and became the 25th member of the 1,000 point club for the Bobcats. Conway received his Bachelors of Business Management from MSU in 2003.
“It is a tremendous honor and extremely exciting to welcome Coach Pete Conway to our staff. Pete brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience to our school. It is a great advantage that he is very familiar with the junior college game and has in place a solid core of recruiting contacts in Indian Country,” remarked Athletic Director Hunter Berg
Basketball-A Conway Family Tradition
Basketball and the Conway family go back a long way. Pete’s father, who also goes by Pete, was a late bloomer for Browning High School, but developed into an All-American at Eastern Montana College (now Montana State-Billings). He was one of the first seven inductees of the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame established in 2007. Pete’s sister, Dana, was also a standout at Billings West before going on to play at the University of Montana where she had an outstanding career for the rich in tradition Grizzlies program.
That family influence is never lost on Coach Conway. “I was fortunate to grow up in a family that loved athletics and supported and pushed me to become the best I could. Obviously basketball and athletics were important growing up and my family was able to accomplish some great achievements on the court, but what I'm most thankful for is the opportunity and the doors that basketball opened up for us by allowing us to obtain an education.”
Success at Little Big Horn College
Conway’s last season as the Head Coach at Little Big Horn saw the school capture huge wins versus perennial juco powerhouses Sheridan, Gillette, and others as the team notched a school record 6 Region wins in the ultra-competitive north region of Region IX. Conway’s development of guard Quentin Everett, who has followed Conway’s footsteps by signing at Montana State, was a major reason for the success. Coach Conway’s work with Everett left a lasting impression on Everett, who remarked when signing with Montana State in a twitter post, “This man Pete Conway is the reason behind my success that I have had these past two years. He gave me the chance to play ball again and also gave me the chance to further my education. God placed this man in my life for a reason and I am really grateful to know him. I am able to live out my dream because he took a chance on me.”
Conway will use his first collegiate coaching experience in a number of ways in the transition to United Tribes. “I am very thankful for the experience and relationships I was able to receive at Little Big Horn College. LBHC provided me the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level in a really talented league. I learned a lot about junior college basketball during my time there and it was an experience I will never forget. I'm proud that we were able to get the basketball program going in the right direction both on and off the court.”
Athletic Director Hunter Berg sees tremendous potential with the program under Conway’s direction. “Pete is a role model for the student-athletes we’d like to attract to United Tribes. He has truly ‘walked the walk’ as a standout student-athlete himself in high school and especially at the collegiate Division I level. We often try to talk about setting goals, about dreaming of success, about helping basketball and athletics empower the energy to earn a degree and an education. Pete knows what it takes to do those things from first-hand experience. That’s a powerful message and even more powerful when used to help the future student-athletes achieve greatness.
At the same time, the characteristics and traits I admire most about Pete are his humbleness and his humility. He will likely never mention all his accomplishments and we will have to pry the information out of him at times. But that only strengthens his standing as a role model and leader for our program. Pete is a true professional and we are very lucky to have him leading our program.”
Others from earlier in Conway’s career have seen that same presence from his younger days. Bill Lamberty, the Assistant Athletic Director of Media Relations at Montana State, had high praise for the young man who was a solid presence on the Bozeman campus. “Pete is one of the finest people ever to pass through this place (Montana State Bobcat Athletics), UTTC is getting a great one! He’s a high character guy from a great family.”
Thunderbirds Under Coach Conway
Since its last Region Championship in the early 2000’s, United Tribes and its men’s basketball program have been fighting to get back on that grand national stage of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. Conway knows the history of those great teams and is excited to be a part of it. “I feel honored to have the opportunity to guide a basketball program with the history and tradition of United Tribes. The success that Tribes has had within their league and on a national scale is unparalleled anywhere else in Indian Country. One of my goals is to recruit student athletes I feel can be successful both on and off the court during their time at Tribes and after. I really believe by attracting the best talent throughout Indian Country we can achieve excellence on the court, in the community, and in the classroom.”
Abbey has been a mainstay in Thunderbird Basketball since the mid-'90's when he was a member of two National Tournament Teams as a player. Abbey has been a part of the women's basketball coaching staff for many years and provides solid instruction for the program.