DILLON — When Britt Cooper accepted an assistant coaching position at her alma mater last year she dreamed of someday becoming head coach, but figured she'd be working for then head coach Lindsay Woolley for years to come.
But then Woolley was offered an assistant coaching position at Utah State and decided he couldn't forgo the opportunity.
The Montana Western women's basketball team now had a head coaching vacancy for the first time in a decade. And after a national search, the Bulldogs went with an in-house candidate.
Cooper, a Harrison native and 2019 Western graduate who earn honorable mention All-American honors as a member of the Bulldogs' national championship roster, was tabbed as Woolley's successor on Tuesday, a few weeks after his departure for Utah State was announced.
A little over four years after graduating from Western, Cooper has now been promoted to head coach of the team that she helped earn its first national title as a senior.
It took a little time for the news to settle in.
"I honestly was kind of in shock for the first 24 hours," Cooper said. "Now it's kind of settling in a little bit more.
"This is one of my dream jobs and to be able to do it here in my old stomping grounds is pretty awesome."
As a player, she helped Western's program achieve unprecedented success and as an assistant coach she got first hand experience in what it takes to lead a Bulldogs team. It would be hard find a candidate who knows this squad better than Cooper.
"We have a really good culture here that Coach Woolley built and I was able to be part of that for a lot of years," Cooper said. "I have national championship experience playing with that 2019 team and I have a really good connection with the girls."
Cooper is excited to see what her predecessor accomplishes in the Mountain West Conference but here sentiments on watching Woolley head for Logan were varied.
"I had mixed emotions about it," Cooper said. "He's a great guy, a great coach and I would have loved to have kept working for him forever. But that's not how basketball works. But I'm really excited for him cause it's a really good challenge for him. It's going to push him to a new level.
"My dream was to be the head coach at Western, but I didn't expect that dream to come true within a year."
After graduating from Western, Cooper spent two seasons as a grad assistant for the women's basketball team at Division II Angelo State while earning a master's degree.
Her time at Angelo State convinced her she had what it takes to coach at the collegiate level.
"It took me about half a year to convince myself that I knew what I was talking about, and that the girls trusted what I had to say," she said.
She returned to her hometown of Harrison in 2021 where she taught math and coached the Wildcats' girls team.
"I missed the mountains, that was a big part of it," she said of her return to Montana.
Then in 2022 Woolley reached out to her about returning to her alma mater and she accepted the assistant coaching position, not knowing that a year later she'd be getting a promotion.
She'll inherit a team that went 12-3 in conference play last season and advanced to the national tournament quarterfinals. But the Bulldogs will have some spaces to fill, namely the void left by All-American Brynley Fitzgerald.
Under Woolley, Western became a common presence in the national tournament, with the Bulldogs most memorable trip unfolding during Cooper's senior season.
She's now ready to continue that tradition of success.
"Keep pushing and recruiting, keep reaching out to the (Class of 2024 recruits)," she said. "Talk about the change in coaching staff and hit the ground running."