His whistle pierces the exuberant din of a late-afternoon basketball practice, and team members gravitate to Brad Huse.
But this scene is much different from the one that has played out hundreds of times since Huse came to Bozeman to take over the Montana State men's basketball program in 2006. On this afternoon, Huse towers over the fifth and sixth grade Bozeman Troop, a traveling youth basketball team that includes his sons, Adam and Drew.
"I've tried to take as low a profile as possible," Huse said of working with his sons. "I'm not out there trying to out-coach anybody. For me, it's a lot of fun to be on the sideline with those kids and talk to them and huddle them up and work with them. It's fun to see them have fun."
Coaching his sons -- Adam is in fifth grade, Drew in third, and 4-year-old Ty is never far from the court, either -- fuses Huse's two great loves, his family and basketball.
Time with his sons also links Huse with decisions made during a difficult episode in his life that began in the winter of 2001. Two days after his Jamestown College team's season had ended with a loss in the Dakota Athletic Conference playoffs, Huse was diagnosed with stage one B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph nodes.
"It was a scary feeling," Kelly Huse remembers of Brad's diagnosis at the age of 34. "He had a good prognosis from the beginning because they caught it early, but cancer is still cancer."
After rigorous chemotherapy treatments, Huse survived and reached the critical three-year mark cancer free. He has had no problems since.
"(Cancer) shows you what really counts," Huse recalls. "We've all heard over and over again╔when you don't have your health, when you're fighting against an illness, nothing else takes on the same meaning in terms of your day-to-day struggles or challenges. Your family takes on a greater meaning, and the things that are most important to you matter a little bit more."
After capping a highly successful eight-year run at Jamestown with a 30-3 season in 2003-04, Huse returned to his hometown of Missoula in 2004-05 as an assistant coach on the University of Montana staff of Larry Krystkowiak, a former high school teammate.
Like most things in Huse's life, the path to Missoula also led back to family, bringing him closer geographically to one of the Treasure State's most active and accomplished sporting clans. Brad's father, Dick, played football at the University of Montana and recently retired from a legendary Montana high school officiating career. One of his brothers, Thad, played football at Montana (1988-91), and another, Shawn, is currently Montana State-Northern's men's head basketball coach.
"It was good working with Larry (Krystkowiak)," Huse says, "and (the assistant coach experience) allowed me to look at things from a different perspective. I was able to catch my breath, in a way." In turn, Krystkowiak called Huse "a great person (who will be) a great head coach."
The Grizzlies compiled a 42-20 record, won the Big Sky Conference tournament each year Huse was there and won an NCAA Tournament game in 2006. So, when Huse's longtime friend Mick Durham retired at Montana State, he knew it was a position that appealed to him professionally while allowing the Huses to remain close to family in Missoula and Kelly's father, Dorick Sauvageau, in Bozeman.
Huse quickly brought an energy and structure to the Bobcat program that mirrors his own personality and athletic career -- he was second team all-state at Missoula Big Sky, and an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American at Montana Tech. The Bobcats responded with an 8-8 finish in league play during his first season. In 2007-08 the Bobcats earned non-league wins over Oregon State and Wyoming and thumped Montana.
As Huse builds the Bobcat program, he remains involved in the fight against cancer.
"I'm the result of technology and medicine and research and somebody's donation to the fight from years ago," he says of his volunteering with such groups as Coaches vs. Cancer and speaking for cancer benefits. "Raising awareness of the fight is very important."
And while his battle with cancer may no longer be foremost in his thoughts, neither is it forgotten.
"There were a lot of nights I was on chemo and couldn't sleep, and I'd sit in the living room looking at (his sons') pictures on the wall thinking, 'Man, I want to spend a lot of years with (them).'
"I'm getting the chance to do that now, and it's a great experience, an incredible experience, having been through what I've been through."
"To see these guys grow up and be a part of it...I'm not taking that for granted."