Coach Cary Finberg was recognized last week for reaching two milestones in Columbia Falls High School basketball history.
Finberg recently eclipsed former coach Ralph Johnson’s all-time boys win mark of 267 by notching his 268th win against Eureka at home Jan. 30. The Wildcats won that game handily, 88-48.
Finberg also reached his 300th combined win as boys and girls basketball coach in an away game against Glacier High School earlier this season, when the Cats beat the Wolfpack, 65-57. With the two wins against Libby last week, Finberg’s combined boys and girls career record is 316-153.
“All records are made to be broken,” Johnson told the crowd at the Feb. 21 Libby game as he presented the award to Finberg. “But it was great that it was done by a Wildcat.”
Finberg grew up in Columbia Falls and was a distinguished basketball player himself — he’s a member of the school’s hall of fame.
Johnson advised Finberg not to get caught up in the Xs and Os and to enjoy the coaching experience.
“It ends all too soon,” Johnson said.
Johnson was inducted into the Columbia Falls High School coaches hall of fame in 1993 with an overall record of 267-172.
He was the head boys basketball coach from 1962 to 1981.
The basketball landscape was much different back then — Columbia Falls played big schools in Missoula and Great Falls on an annual basis. Johnson’s teams came in second at the state tournament against the bigger schools three times.
The Wildcats were divisional champs five times and conference champions four times. In 1965-66, the Wildcats were Big 32 champions and lost to Great Falls High School in the state championship, 62-61.
Finberg is in his 18th season as head coach for the boys. He’s won eight conference championships, eight divisional championships and four state Class A championships (2003, 2005, 2006, 2011). He’s also posted two second-place finishes at state and three third-place finishes at state.
Finberg said he was caught off-guard by the recognition.
“I really appreciate coach Johnson presenting the award,” he said. “To be put in his company is humbling.”
Finberg has coached two of Johnson’s grandchildren — Parker Johnson was a guard on the 2011 championship team and is now an assistant coach, and sophomore Ellie Johnson is currently on the girls varsity team.