With two uncles who are longtime basketball coaches and a mother who coaches at his alma matter, it seemed logical that Shann Mack would follow in their footsteps. But, as it turns out, the former prep basketball standout has taken a slightly different course into coaching.
Rather than pick up a playbook and whistle for basketball, Mack has been making his mark in volleyball. It began with a volunteer assistant position at Three Forks High School, and he recently finished up his first season as the sophomore coach at Bozeman High.
“I don’t know if I chose volleyball or if volleyball chose me. Because I come from a basketball family,” said Mack.
His mother, Laurie (Durham) Mack, is an assistant coach for Three Forks’ girls basketball team. His uncles, Mick and Mark Durham, have both coached college basketball. Mick Durham was a longtime Montana State University assistant and men’s head coach, while Mark Durham is the former University of Montana-Western men’s coach. He is now the athletic director at the NAIA college based in Dillon.
So why volleyball instead of basketball?
“At a young age I developed a knack for the sport. I played and watched the sport,” said Mack. “I loved it as a player. And I wanted to translate that into coaching because I knew I had a lot to offer. I also learned a lot when I was in junior high when I got to practice with the team. I got to see it as a player.”
Three Forks volleyball coach Lisa Malmquist gave Shann Mack his coaching start, and noted his eagerness to teach the players and learn the game.
“He absolutely loves the game of volleyball and he wants to learn as much as he can about it,” said Malmquist. “He has a great work ethic.”
“I learned a ton from Lisa and her program,” said Shann Mack. “I learned a lot from Jeff Strickland when he coached. I managed for Strickland when I was real young. I just picked up the skills.”
Shann Mack has three younger sisters, two of whom are currently playing in high school or college. Shelby Mack is a sophomore libero at Montana-Western, while Shayla Mack is a junior setter for Three Forks High.
“We’ve kind of been blessed with a really athletic family,” said Shann Mack. “It’s really nice to coach your siblings. In many ways we coach each other. Even out in the yard playing basketball or whatever, you are coaching each other.”
That learning curve hasn’t been limited to just his siblings.“I’ve learned a lot more about volleyball because of him,” said Laurie Mack. “I didn’t play volleyball because we didn’t have that when I was in high school. He has taught us all a lot about volleyball.”
Shann Mack is currently a junior at Montana State University and was a great addition to a Bozeman Hawk team that started over in 2010 with a new head coach following a State AA runnerup finish in 2009.
The sophomore team got off to a slow 1-7 start, but managed to finish the season with a .500 record under Shann Mack’s leadership. His ability to step in and play with the girls has brought a more hands on approach for the Hawks.
“He worked in the drills,” Malmquist noted of his coaching style in Three Forks. “Whether he was hitting or blocking against the girls, with him practicing with us made us better.”
Still, it was an adjustment from coaching at tiny Three Forks High to Class AA Bozeman. But Shann Mack met the challenge without reservation.
“It’s great. It’s been fun. I had a blast,” he said. “Obviously it’s a bigger school than I came from. A lot more kids. The competitiveness is at a higher level.”
Shann Mack quickly got familiar with Bozeman’s players after coaching a team that participated in Three Forks’ End of the Summer Volleyball tournament in late July.
“It was a mix of girls that we could find that I took to Three Forks,” he explained. “With us all being new coaches we didn’t know much about the team at that time. We only lost one game out of all the matches that we played. It was a successful weekend.”
Like most coaches, Shann Mack hopes to become a head coach.
“I would absolutely love to some day down the road,” he said. “It would be nice to go back to Three Forks so I can give back from what I learned there. I’m red and white now, but I would like to be a Three Forks Wolves coach.”
With his youngest sister, Shainy, displaying the same volleyball talents as her older siblings, the Mack family can now be known as much for volleyball as they are for basketball.
“He’s coaching volleyball because we still have a lot of volleyball left,” said Laurie Mack. “He has a sister that’s in the fifth grade.”
While the past several years have been exciting for Shann Mack, he knows there’s still plenty to learn about the game.
“I think you learn something about the sport every day. It’s like every point counts and you have to have all six players ready to go,” he said. “It just makes a difference to have all six players on the floor ready to go. It’s not like basketball where you can hide somebody. Volleyball is a sport where everyone has to be ready to go.”
After starting in the radiology field as a freshman at MSU, Shann Mack has switched his major to elementary education. The teaching field will allow him to continue coaching.
“I realized that I wouldn’t been in the gym coaching, so I changed my major,” he said.
Next fall Shann Mack will head into the classroom as a student-teacher to finish up his college education. Following graduation he would like to remain in the Gallatin Valley, and don’t be surprised some day if he winds up coaching basketball as well as volleyball.
“I think it’s a good thing. He does well with it. He’s enjoys what he’s doing,” Laurie Mack said of her son’s volleyball prowess. “I still think someday he will get into coaching basketball because he really enjoyed basketball.”