Part IV: 1990-present
By CURT SYNNESS
In 1990, Gary Turcott became Carroll College’s 30th head men’s basketball coach. From that point on, all coach Turcott did was proceed to rewrite the Saints’ record books.
Turcott initially made his mark at the Hilltop on the gridiron 22 years earlier, as a standout defensive back for the Saints football team from 1964-67. He earned his bachelors degree in social studies in 1968, and even captured his boxing match during the annual Carroll Smoker.
During 20 seasons of leading the men’s hoops program, his teams amassed 376 victories and eight Frontier Conference championships, both of which are school records. In his final decade at the helm of the Saints’ program, Turcott’s squads compiled a 228-88 mark for an impressive 72% winning percentage.
Turcott was named the Frontier’s Coach of the Year five times, and posted 10 seasons with 20 or more wins. A familiar face in Kansas City during the March Madness, his nationally ranked Saints qualified to the NAIA National Tournament seven times.
"Gary was one of the most humble, hard working coaches I have ever been around," said Capital High Lady Bruins coach Bill Pilgeram, who spearheaded Turcott’s first Frontier title club in 1992, for their first league title in 15 years. "He was a great teacher of the game who loved competition and loved his players. Mostly I learned how to treat players correctly and also how to break down and teach the fundamentals of the game. It has been a blessing to have him as a friend and coaching colleague as my coaching career has advanced."
Carroll athletic director Bruce Parker wrote, "In 2004-05, Gary directed the Frontier champion Fighting Saints into uncharted water as Carroll advanced to the NAIA's Fab Four."
This marked the first time that a Carroll College team had advanced beyond the first round of the national tournament since 1966, and was the first time in the history of the Frontier Conference that a team made it past the Sweet 16.
The Saints opened the tourney with an 85-72 win over No. 11 Concordia University, sparked by Turkey’s Sinan Guler’s 20 points and six rebounds. Next came a come-from-behind triumph over Oklahoma City, 66-65, on a 3-point bomb by Kurt Paulson with 41 seconds on the clock.
In the quarterfinals, Helena High product Andy Brown fired in a game-high 19 points and grabbed seven boards, spearheading CC’s 67-57 victory over Saint Xavier (Ill.). The Saints defense, led by Ross Gustafson and Travis Williams, held Saint Xavier’s leading scorer to just eight points.
Carroll’s ride then came to an end one game away from the national championship contest, losing to John Brown 73-60 in the semifinals.
"The Saints were ranked in the NAIA Top-10 for the duration of the 2005-06 campaign and won both the conference regular season title, and the Frontier Conference Tournament crown,” Parker wrote. “To cap off a landmark season, they advanced to the Elite Eight at the NAIA National Tournament for the second straight season. Turcott’s squad ended the season at 30-4, a mark that remains the best in school history."
All-Americans, Pilgeram’s records
The Hilltop’s skipper guided 11 NAIA All-Americans, including Pilgeram (1991-92), Drew Peterson (1994), Guy Almquist (1997), Capital High alum Kevin Van Nice (1999), J.D. Solomon (2001), Shane Gamradt (2001-02), Andy Brown (2005), Travis Williams (2005-06), Jeff Hays (2006), Turkey’s Sinan Guler (2006) and freshman Andy Garland (2009).
Pilgeram left the Hilltop with numerous records. Among those still standing, almost 25 years later, are game free throws (18), season average (28.6 ppg), season 3-point percentage (57.7%), career average (24.9 ppg), career points (2,515), career free throws (501) and career 3-point percentage (54.1%).
The Saints also produced 32 All-Frontier Conference selections during Turcott’s tenure, highlighted by five league MVPs – Pilgeram (1991-92), Almquist (1997), Brown (2005) and Garland (2009).
Adding to Turcott’s successes on the court are the accolades he receives from Pilgeram and others that played for him. As J.D. Solomon, current Carroll Lady Saints’ assistant coach states, "Coach Gary Turcott is a great teacher of the fundamentals of basketball. He has spent countless hours, dedicating himself to the development of players. But perhaps what I respect most about coach Turcott is his dedication to seeing his players flourish after they have moved on."
Capital boys coach Guy Almquist noted that besides his parents, Turcott has had the biggest influence on his life. "Coach gave me the unreal opportunity to play college basketball and graduate from Carroll College," said Almquist, who owns the school’s record of 10 3-point field goals in a game. “His concern for his players went far beyond the hardwood. I will forever be indebted and consider him a great friend and mentor."
Coaches Veltri, Cunningham
Carroll has had two coaches since Turcott’s retirement. Brandon Veltri guided the Saints from 2009-2013, and Carson Cunningham took over in 2013 until the present.
In 2011, CC captured a share of the conference championship with MSU-Northern, while Veltri was named the Frontier’s Coach of the Year. Veltri coached two first team All-Conference hoopsters – Andy Garland (three times) and Ben Cutler. Garland also added three All-American selections his final three seasons to go with his freshman award, becoming the school’s first-ever four-time All-American.