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Coach Cary Finberg retiring at end of season

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | January 26, 2024 7:50 AM



COLUMBIA FALLS — Come December things will look different at the Columbia Falls High School gym.

Cary Finberg, the longtime and legendary basketball coach at his high school alma mater, confirmed Thursday that he is stepping down as coach of the Wildkats’ girls basketball team after the season.

He told his team of his decision on Wednesday. 

The 1984 Columbia Falls graduate has been a head coach at the school for 28 seasons — or more accurately 32, since he coached both the boys and the girls from 2011-15.

He’s been strictly the girls coach since 2015-16, and in 2017 guided the Wildkats to the program’s second state championship. 

Finberg’s 228-63 record as the Wildkats’ coach includes a 3-7 start this season. More than that, he felt his days of making cuts and devising player rotations were coming to a close.

“It was just time,” Finberg said before his team took on visiting Ronan Thursday afternoon. “One of my main philosophies is, I’m going to do what’s best for the program. I just think this is what’s best for the program at this time.

“It’s kind of been year-to-year for the last few years. I just think the kids in the program needed a different voice at this point.”

Finberg became the boys’ head coach in 1996-97 and guided the Wildcats to unprecedented heights: They won their first State A boys championship in 2003, and then four more after (2005, 2006, 2011 and 2014). 

His record with the boys was 298-134 in 19 seasons. Add in his girls coaching record and it is 526-197. He snuck career win No. 500 past the media on Dec. 23, 2021, when the Wildkats beat Polson 58-41 at home.

Finberg leaves Columbia Falls High with a full trophy case: His last seven boys teams placed in the top three at State; he had a run of six straight trophies with the girls from 2014-19, including a runner-up finish in 2016. 

He originally began coaching the Wildkats because his daughters, Ciera and Cydney, were matriculating through. Cydney Finberg was on the 2016-17 team alongside Dani Douglas, Peyton Kehr and Kiara Burlage 

When his daughters graduated, Finberg kept going.

“I’m glad I made that decision,” he said. “We’ve been competitive every year.”

He’s also “completely satisfied,” with this decision. “Now my focus is trying to get this team playing better, and building some momentum toward divisionals.”

Finberg never became a teacher at Columbia Falls, despite his degree from Montana-Western, where he starred in basketball. He took over his dad’s bar, the Columbia, in 1990; he sold the bar last July.

“I’m going to have to find a side gig here or there,” Finberg said. “We’ll see. There’s the old saying, ‘One door closes and another opens up,’ and we’ll see what happens from here.”


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