Part III: 1970-1990
By CURT SYNNESS
After serving as Carroll’s JV coach for three years, former Saints player Jim Trudnowski took over as head coach in the winter of 1970, and guided the Saints for the next 10 seasons.
An individual highlight that first season was Jack Sanders’ school record 48 points against the College of Great Falls, breaking Dick House’s 1956 mark of 45. Sanders, a junior transfer from Fresno State, has held CC’s game record now for 43 years.
Trudnowski’s first conference winning season (9-6) took place in 1974, behind first team All-Conference cagers Dave Leslie and Steve Shaw.
Leslie, a 6’4” junior from Joliet, Illinois, averaged 21.7 points. Hilltop historian Marty Mouat wrote, “Had there been a 3-point line back then, Leslie’s average would’ve been much higher.”
Shaw, a 6’6” senior transfer from the University of Oregon, averaged 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, and once blocked six shots in a game.
The next year, Leslie poured in 20.6 ppg, and was selected honorable mention NAIA All-American. He received a tryout with the ABA New Orleans Jazz, and lasted until the third cut.
Carroll (20-8, 10-2) captured the 1977 Frontier title, beating Eastern Montana 81-72 in the conference finals. This marked the first time since 1954 that the Saints won both football and basketball league crowns in the same year.
Rock Carlson, a 6’5” senior from Los Altos, California, averaged 18.5 points and was tabbed first team All-Conference.
The school’s next super star was Mike Kelley, who garnered back-to-back first team All-Frontier selections in 1979-80. A 6’1” product of Gonzaga prep, Kelley averaged over 15 points and led the team in assists both years.
CC’s next two coaches were Jon Driscoll (1980-86) and Jim Kampen (1986-90).
Driscoll’s best season was 1981-82, placing second in the conference at 10-5.
He coached three first team All-Frontier selections – John Saunders in 1982, Bobby Petrino in 1984, and Tony Egland in 1986.
Saunders, a 6’5” junior transfer from Orange Coast Community College, California, averaged 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Capital High alum Petrino, a 5’11” guard, averaged 20.5 points and led the Saints with 139 assists, while setting a school record 84.4 for free throw percentage.
Egland, a 6’8” junior center from Genesse, Idaho, averaged 19.4 points and pulled down 11.1 boards per game.
As a senior the following season, Egland fired in 22.8 ppg and set a Carroll season record of 754 points, which still stands. He repeated as first team All-Conference and was named Frontier MVP. Egland went on to play professional hoops in Europe.
This was also one of first-year coach Kampen’s best seasons, as the underdog Saints – 7-9 in league play – captured the 1987 conference championship with an 85-80 victory over Rocky Mountain in the playoff finals.
Bliss' MVP, Pilgeram's arrival
In 1988-89, Carroll went 19-10 and 9-7, led by junior Glenn Bliss and freshman Bill Pilgeram.
Bliss, a 6’9” post from Great Falls, garnered the Frontier’s MVP award, averaging 20.3 points and 11.1 rebounds. He left the school with two first team All-Conference citations his final two years – Bliss averaged 21.5 ppg and 13.9 rpg in 1990 – and several school records, including 1,834 career points and 61.8 field goal percentage.
Pilgeram, a 6’4” native of Plains, transferred from Gonzaga University after redshirting the year before. He played his first two seasons on the Hilltop under Kampen, collecting the first two of his eventual four first team All-Conference selections in 1989, and the first of a trio of All-Frontier MVPs as a sophomore.
Pilgeram averaged 22.5 points and dished 193 assists his freshman year, and 28.6 points in 1989-90.
The next year saw the arrival of a new coach, with whom Pilgeram and the Saints would jump-start to a new level of success on the Hilltop.