MISSOULA, Mont. - The Tinkle name has been at the forefront of the Missoula basketball community for the better part of the last 30 years. Current men's head coach Wayne and his wife Lisa were both standout players for the University of Montana. And when Wayne returned to Missoula to coach the Grizzlies, he brought with him his three kids... all three of which have turned into exceptional players on the hardwoods.
"People always ask 'Gosh did you just shove it down their throat?'. And we never did," says Wayne of his kids. "Jos and Elle... I mean when they were young they saw me playing overseas and so they had some early exposure."
"Never once have either of my parents forced it upon us," agrees the coach's oldest daughter Joslyn Tinkle. "You know we had fun, it wasn't an eat, sleep, breathe kind of thing."
"Yeah they didn't really push us into a certain sport, they just wanted us to be happy," says the youngest of the family Tres Tinkle. "But I mean definitely it's a big part of our life and that's the first sport we really learned how to play and we all fell in love with it right away."
After two state titles in a row at Big Sky high school and two Gatorade player of the year honors, it was Joslyn Tinkle that was the first one to leave the nest. She chose Stanford University to pursue her career. She's not only a starting senior captain for the team right now, but she's knocking on the door of a fourth final four.
"I've always been so proud of her and I don't think I could have had a better role model," says Elle Tinkle, the middle child of the family. "An outstanding player and the things she's accomplished is just unbelievable."
"She was always a fantastic kid growing up here," says her father Wayne. "It's no surprise that she's enjoying this success now and it does make us very very proud."
Just three years later it was time for Elle Tinkle to make her basketball decision. And after being an all-state player three years for the Eagles, she decided to take her talents to Gonzaga in Spokane, the same town that her dad went to high school.
"My youngest daughter Elle left this year and then it was just Lisa and I and Tres. It was just like a two by four slapped up against my big head, my girls!"
"It's just strange because I see her last week and she's out there in a Gonzaga uniform," says Joslyn. "And I can remember it like yesterday we were running the last few seconds down and giving each other a big hug after we won the state championship."
Well the two girls may be gone, but the legacy is far from over. Tres Tinkle is only a sophomore right now at Hellgate high school in Missoula, and yet he leads the entire Western "AA" Conference in scoring.
"I'm not surprised at all," comments Joslyn on her brother's success. "I mean Elle and I always joke about it that he's going to be the best one out of all of us. I think just from... he grew up in a gym, talk about a gym rat you know."
"I'm so proud of him," agrees Tres' sister Elle. "He's just the biggest gym rat, always in the gym and shooting. He's really worked hard for everything he's done and so he definitely deserves all that he's getting."
"I was in my locker room and my freshman year he sent me this, I don't even know what grade he was in like a 6th or 7th grader, but he sent me this little picture like his school picture," tells Joslyn. "And I've hung it in my locker ever since, and he just looks like this baby. And it wasn't even that long ago. I come home for Christmas, and I don't get to see him that often, he's another couple inches taller and he now towers me."
"Well there was some pressure. And he's like I don't want to be the weak link and that sort of thing, had some doubt," said Wayne of Tres growing up. "He's very focused and really works his tail off so I think if he keeps progressing he's going to have a lot of opportunity in front of him."
The Tinkles will admit that all that talent made for a very competitive household, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
"Games in the driveway that turned into fights maybe," according to Elle.
"It never ended so well," agreed Joslyn. "They were short-lived that's for sure. We're all very competitive."
Tres says despite the competition it made them all better: "Knowing they are always going to be your biggest supporters and your number one fans."
" I'm learning things from my brother," adds Elle. "Things I probably never would have been able to do like when the heck did he start doing his up and unders I'm still amazed at some of the things he's able to do so I think we just learn from each other because we all have our own abilities."
"Instead of trying to groom the next Tom Brady or the next Michael Jordan, just try to get them to be responsible young adults," said Wayne when asked of his parenting advice. "Couldn't be more proud of number one who they are and what they stand for. All great individuals and great students. And the fact that they are good athletes is really just a bonus."