CHEYENNE – Hillary Carlson wasn’t looking to make a jump to her next coaching stop.
The former Cheyenne Central and University of Wyoming basketball standout was enjoying her time as an assistant at NCAA Division II Central Washington University. She was helping Randi Richardson-Thornley – her former UW teammate – turn the Wildcats into a winner, and she liked the area.
That’s why Carlson expressed reluctance the first time Air Force Academy coach Chris Gobrecht called her to talk about joining her staff.
“I didn’t want to leave Central Washington, and I didn’t want to leave Randi, so it was a very tough decision,” Carlson said.
“We were both pretty emotional about it as I got ready to leave. I learned so much from her, and I really enjoyed Central Washington so much.
“Professionally, she recognizes this is an opportunity I had to jump at.”
Carlson’s path to Air Force started when she met Falcons assistant Erin Mills-Reid at a recruiting stop. Mills-Reid told Carlson that Gobrecht was looking for an assistant to work with Air Force’s post players and asked if Carlson would be interested.
“It just sounded like a really good opportunity for a young coach,” Carlson said. “Coach Gobrecht has more than 30 years of head coaching experience, and has had a ton of success. Her two associate head coaches are also two of the best recruiters she has ever worked with.
“I just had to jump at the opportunity to take the next step and learn from such great coaches.”
Richardson-Thornley gave Carlson the responsibility of developing Central Washington’s post players. It was an opportunity Carlson enjoyed during her two seasons in Ellensburg.
“(Richardson-Thornley) works so hard and has a great vision for what she wants to do,” Carlson said. “She also is great at skill development, and I learned a lot there. She taught me to have confidence in myself, what I know and what I’m good at.
“She trusted me with skill development of our bigs. I ran with it and learned a lot.”
Carlson knows the players she recruits at Air Force are going to have a different academic and character makeup than the players she talked to at Central Washington.
“We start out with a really big list of kids who can play,” Carlson said. “We talk with them to see if they’re interested, have the grades and want to serve. That narrows it down pretty quickly.”