Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Scott Nulph

Together again

Former Cowgirls Carlson, Richardson reunited as coaches at Central Washington


June 23, 2017

LARAMIE – Hillary Carlson and Randi Richardson formed a quick bond in the fall of 2007.

Carlson, a standout high school player at Cheyenne Central, and Richardson, a transfer from the University of San Francisco, came together with the University of Wyoming women's basketball program that fall and were part of one of the most successful runs in Cowgirls basketball history.

The two combined to help lead UW to a 61-35 record over their final three seasons with two trips deep into the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Carlson left UW No. 11 all-time in scoring at 1,485 points, No. 2 in blocked shots with 212 and No. 14 in rebounds with 678.

After graduating, Carlson and Richardson each headed home, to Cheyenne and Arlington, Washington, respectively. But they kept in constant contact, even talking at times about someday reuniting on the bench as basketball coaches.

That someday will be this fall.

Richardson was named the head women's basketball coach at NCAA Division II Central Washington on April 26.

Carlson said her first text to Richardson was to wish her good friend congratulations. Her second text moments later was: "you need an assistant?"

"I was just really happy for her because I knew she had been paying her dues and moving around that conference as an assistant," Carlson said. "It's always been in my mind to be a coach. In college I felt I was drawn to coaching so that's why I chose teaching as well because those two fit together."

While Richardson climbed the coaching ranks in Washington – first as a girls high school assistant for her hometown Arlington team, then at the college level as an assistant at Seattle Pacific and Central Washington – Carlson quickly found a teaching job at her high school alma mater.

Carlson began teaching high school math at Central High and has also been an assistant girls basketball coach the past five seasons.

When the Central girls head coach position became available this spring, Carlson elected not to apply, instead wanting to focus on her teaching career.

But when Richardson – who spent two years as an assistant at Central Washington before getting the head job when Jeff Harada left for the top spot at Cal State Fullerton – offered Carlson the main assistant position, it was an offer impossible to pass up.

"It was hard, because my family's here, I have a great friends and a relationship here," Carlson said. "But I thought that down the road, 10-15 years from now, if I didn't at least try at this opportunity I would definitely regret it.

"I have such passion for the game and I want to be at a competitive level that I think it will be a great fit for me."

That passion was a big reason for Carlson wanting to make the move.

"I've had the privilege of working with some really great kids (at Central), but for a lot of players I've coached, basketball hasn't been their main sport or their passion," Carlson said. "They're athletes and they like to play sports and be competitive. They didn't necessarily have the love for the game that I did.

"Knowing that I'll be going into a situation where the players I coach do have that passion and want to be competitive, that's going to be a great experience and it will be fun to coach players like that."

Richardson did her due diligence before hiring Carlson, making sure to talk with a handful of other candidates for the position. But after each interview, the former Cowgirls point guard said one thought kept coming back to her: Nobody measured up to what Carlson could bring to the Wildcats program.

"I take a lot of what I learned from the University of Wyoming and how (head coach) Joe (Legerski) and (associate head coach) Gerald (Mattinson) and that staff ran things," Richardson said. "It's really a big foundation of my coaching and Hillary has that same background so her learning curve coming in isn't nearly as much as anyone else.

"Hillary has such great knowledge and passion of the game and her post player knowledge is something that not many have."

Another thing Carlson and Richardson can take from their time at UW was being able to watch Legerski and Mattinson work together as head coach and assistant despite being close friends.

"My experience with Joe and Gerald was that they were really good friends as well, but they also worked well together and played off each other," Carlson said. "They definitely had different personalities and it's definitely a good model for us to go by."

NCAA Division II rules say that programs can't conduct summer workouts, so the first chance the former Cowgirls duet will get to be on the court together as coaches will come when fall workouts begin in September.

But that won't be their first chance to reunite.

Richardson is getting married this Saturday and Carlson will be a bridesmaid in the wedding.

A dress rehearsal – as it were – for when Richardson will be in charge of running the show, and Carlson right beside her for help and guidance.

"I'm so excited about getting started," Richardson said. "Hillary and I have always talked about once I got into the college ranks – that if I ever get an opportunity or I'm on a staff that has an opening – I'd love to have her on staff.

"Now it's real. Neither of can wait to get started."


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