DILLON — Montana Western Athletics turned a new page on Wednesday, introducing two new faces, who are both new to taking over a program as head coach.
Kody Lahaye takes over a Bulldog rodeo team that had spent the past 30 years under the retiring Olie Else, while Larsen replaces Steve Keller, who left for Providence after coaching in Dillon for the past 11 years. But the two new guys aren’t ready to call it the beginning of a new era.
“Hopefully we take the best there has been at Montana Western then build on that,” Larsen said. “Instead of just changing cultures or changing eras, let’s just continue to build on what has already happened.”
The two officially introduced themselves to media, players, and faculty for the first time on Wednesday. A big benefit for the two teams is that the rosters they inherit allow them to not have to start over.
“I kind of already get lucky there, that the team is already nationally known,” Lahaye said of his rodeo team. “I can take from the fundraising and the support that she’s received, and I can take that another step further.”
While Lahaye, a former Bulldog, will have a much easier time keeping the pieces together, the team Larsen inherits is not a guarantee. With Keller’s departure came a lot of uncertainty surrounding the status of the current roster, especially returning all-Americans Zaccheus Darko-Kelly and Brandon Jones. But Larsen is optimistic in keeping the herd together after speaking with players.
“My No. 1 goal is to retain everybody that’s on this team,” he said. “Not only are they really good basketball players — I’ve gotten to know a couple of them just in the couple of short days — we got some really good people.”
Both coaches know the shoes they’re filling are larger than most but are excited for a new challenge and a new chapter in their careers. Lahaye’s contract begins on Aug. 1, after he finishes his season assisting the Montana State rodeo team, while Larsen’s contract has already started.