DILLON — It was going to take a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity to pull Lindsay Woolley away from a town and Frontier Conference program that he and his family have loved for over a decade.
But then the Mountain West came calling.
Woolley stepped away from his position as Montana Western's head women's basketball coach last week to accept a position with Utah State's women's program, where he'll be an assistant under head coach Kayla Ard.
When asked if jumping from coaching at the NAIA level to Division I — an opportunity that certainly doesn't present itself often — was a no-brainer, Woolley said it was not. But he knew it was a leap he couldn't pass up.
"When you've been somewhere as long as I've been, had the relationships that we've built in this community, no it's not an easy decision," Woolley said. "But it's also something that three years from now if I didn't try, I'd definitely regret it.
"It's gonna be exciting, it's gonna be different, it's gonna be really challenging," he continued. "And at this stage of my career you don't get shots like this, so I'm gonna take it."
Woolley — a Missoula Big graduate who spent eight seasons with Miles Community College before joining Western in 2012 — will be the second Treasure State basketball coach to head for Logan, Utah, this year after Danny Sprinkle was tabbed as the Aggies' next head men's basketball coach in April after guiding Montana State to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The resume Woolley was able to present to Utah State is robust: He led a Bulldogs team that hadn't reached the NAIA national tournament in a decade to five straight appearances, the most memorable being 2019 when Western claimed its first national championship in Billings. That accomplishment earned him national coach of the year honors.
Looking back on that unforgettable postseason run, Woolley said he felt like that team ran itself, and his role was to simply let them do their thing.
"I really didn't have to coach them, I really didn't," he said. "It was just 'stay out of the way and not screw it up' and I mean that. We sat in the locker room and they said 'We're gonna win a national championship.'"
Woolley said the success the Bulldogs were able to enjoy from the 2016-17 seasons onward — when Western never finished lower than third in the Frontier Conference standings — was the result of belief and patience.
"It wasn't always good, we had some down years," Woolley said. "For administration to stick with you and let you keep your job and let you experiment and kind of let you learn on the job I think is huge, cause that doesn't happen everywhere."
Over his tenure, Woolley coached 10 All-Americans while compiling an overall record of 187-123. But he'll ultimately be most appreciative for the people of the Dillon and Montana Western community.
"Eternally grateful and thankful for taking us in, making my wife (Megan) and son (Avery) feel at home," he said. "Coming out and supporting our kids in every way that they can.
"They gave me a shot and I took it and we did some good things, I'm awfully proud of that."