Tanner Stillwell, left, and former Steamboat Springs High School coach Kelly Meek chat during a Western State Colorado University men's basketball practice. Stillwell, a 2007 Steamboat graduate who played under Meek, is in his first year as an assistant coach for the Mountaineers.

Courtesy photo

Tanner Stillwell, left, and former Steamboat Springs High School coach Kelly Meek chat during a Western State Colorado University men's basketball practice. Stillwell, a 2007 Steamboat graduate who played under Meek, is in his first year as an assistant coach for the Mountaineers.

With Meek again by his side, Steamboat Springs grad Tanner Stillwell a hit in college coaching position

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Tanner Stillwell, in the background, helps with a practice at Western State Colorado University. The 2007 Steamboat Springs High School graduate is in his first year as an assistant coach with the Mountaineers.

— As former Steamboat Springs High School basketball coach Kelly Meek recalls, Tanner Stillwell was never the most athletic basketball player. But his mind, confidence and complete understanding of the game were never in doubt.

“He picked up everything we did offensively and on the defensive end so fast and so well,” Meek said about Stillwell, a 2007 Steamboat graduate. “He really was an extension of myself. I was the left arm, he was the right arm.”

Now the two share the same sideline again.

Stillwell, a 2012 Colorado State University graduate, is in his first year as an assistant basketball coach at Western State Colorado University.

Stillwell and Meek both work under Mike Moskowitz, who helped coach Meek in Steamboat from 1997 to 2000.

“I knew he was a high-quality person,” Moskowitz said about Stillwell. “Coach Meek said, ‘I’ve been doing it for 40 years and Tanner may have been the captain of captains.’ It was an easy decision for me.”

Stillwell graduated with a degree in history and earned a teaching license. He student-taught at Fort Collins High School and started helping with the freshmen and sophomore basketball teams there. He taught a class in U.S. history for juniors and would work from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then he’d go to basketball practice at 5:30 p.m.

“And it was always the highlight of my day,” Stillwell said. “I went to school for history and a teacher license. I would teach history, but the best subject was basketball. Just to be around young people and help them grow.”

So in the spring Moskowitz and Stillwell met, with the Mountaineers' head man offering him an assistant position.

“Division II basketball coaching is not the most glamorous,” Moskowitz said. “He’s not making a lot of money. But he’s in it to help young men.”

What Meek saw in Stillwell years ago has translated to coaching the Mountaineers.

Stillwell’s roles are plentiful. He helps Moskowitz with all the administrative stuff, from sending fliers to communicating with former players and just about everything in between.

Stillwell also has announced for volleyball and football games, driven the girls soccer team to New Mexico and helped with all the driving for the men’s basketball team.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot more of Colorado than I ever have before,” he said.

His duties have continued to expand. In addition to helping with practices and other on-court duties, Stillwell recently has been tasked with putting together a scouting report fo Saturday night opponents.

The Mountaineers typically play Fridays and Saturdays.

“I don’t think anything intimidates Tanner,” Meek said. “He just jumped right into it. He takes an opponent, all their films from all their games and just processes it down.”

At just 24, Stillwell relates well with the players. He’s also helped as a tutor.

Although it's not the most lucrative position, Stillwell is enjoying his time. He said he wants to continue coaching at Western for a few years and pursue a graduate assistant coaching position before eventually earning a master’s degree.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else since I’ve got here. I’ve got that coaching itch,” he said. “I definitely see it as a long-term thing. Coaching is where my heart is right now.

"It’s really what I have a passion to do.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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