DILLON — The Mike Larsen era has begun at Montana Western.
Bulldogs’ director of athletics Bill Wilson announced Friday morning that Larsen is the new head men’s basketball coach, replacing Steve Keller, who left for the head job at the University of Providence in Great Falls.
“We are very excited to have Mike Larsen join the Bulldog family as our new head men’s basketball coach,” Wilson said in a release. “Mike’s enthusiasm, basketball intellect and his proven success developing student-athletes propelled him to the top of over 140 applicants. He is a talented young coach that worked for a legendary head coach in Gary Garner at Dakota State. Mike knows what it takes to be successful and we are excited about the future of Montana Western basketball.”
Larsen has served as the top assistant coach at Dakota State for the past four years, and spent the past seven seasons on the Trojans’ staff. Larsen, along with head coach Gary Garner, helped Dakota State to consecutive conference championships. The Trojans also qualified for the NAIA Division II national tournament in four of the past five years. Dakota State advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2013, the program’s first trip to the final eight since 1992.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Mr. Wilson and the entire committee for entrusting me with the position at UMW,” Larsen said in the release. “I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to represent the men’s basketball program and the university. I also want to thank my family and Dakota State University for their support over the years. I can’t wait to get started.”
Larsen was an all-state prep standout in Utah, leading his high school program to a state championship. He spent three seasons at Northwest Missouri State University, earning two conference titles and a pair of trips to the NCAA Division II men’s national tournament.
He spent his final season of eligibility at Dakota State, where he was named Dakota Athletic Conference third-team all-conference. His lone season playing for the Trojans was the program’s first winning season in two decades.
Larsen is a graduate of Northwest Missouri State, earning a major in corporate recreation and a minor in coaching. He earned his master’s in education technology from Dakota State.
He and his wife Kati have two daughters, Natalie and Ellie Grace.
Larsen takes over a program that saw outstanding success under previous head coach Steve Keller. The Bulldogs advanced to eight of the last nine NAIA Division I national tournaments, advancing to the quarterfinals this past season. Keller owned a career record of 231-124, including a league mark of 108-62 during his tenure with Western.
Oklahoma Panhandle State head coach Jerry Olson, along with College of Idaho assistant Colby Blaine were the other finalists for the Bulldogs’ vacancy. Blaine accepted the head coaching position in Caldwell on Tuesday, after Scott Garson took an assistant position at Santa Clara University.
Larsen’s hiring is one of many moves in Montana this offseason. Days after Keller’s departure for Providence, Carroll College’s Carson Cunningham accepted a head coaching position at NCAA Division I Incarnate Word. The Fighting Saints hired former guard Kurt Paulson, who was serving on Wayne Tinkle’s staff at Oregon State, three weeks later.
Former Montana State University coach Mick Durham also moved back to the Treasure State. Durham accepted the MSU Billings men’s job, moving from Alaska Fairbanks to the Magic City.