DILLON — There is no getting around it for Kody Lahaye, he has sizable shoes to fill in taking over as Montana Western’s rodeo head coach.
With Iola “Olie” Else stepping down from the helm of the program after 24 years following this season, Lahaye will inherit a tight knit community’s program with expectations that extend to the national level.
But as Western athletic director Bill Wilson introduced Lahaye at a news conference Wednesday at Straugh Gymnasium, he noted Lahaye’s reputation in the rodeo community and his ties to the university had his name come to the forefront during the hiring process.
And while Lahaye acknowledged the gap left in the heart of the program with the longtime coach's departure, he remains optimistic about growing the program with Else’s stamp permanently etched in.
“I’m lucky there, the team is already nationally known,” he said. “And I can take the fundraising, and the support she’s already received and take that another step further. I can build on what she’s already started here … I feel very blessed that I’ve already got that support system behind me a little bit.”
Lahaye, who competed at the College National Finals Rodeo as a cowboy for the Bulldogs between 2009-14, brings with him a wealth of experience not just with rodeo, but in coaching and recruiting — two abilities he’s honed since his time competing in the arena.
After graduating from Western with a degree in business administration, Lahaye stayed on board as an assistant coach to Else for two years. For the past two seasons, he’s been an assistant coach for Andy Bolich at Montana State University.
Having previously worked in admissions, Lahaye says he’s gotten his feet wet in recruiting, and that aspect of the job is something he’s eager to wrestle down. He plans to spend time at high school rodeos, getting face time with prospective student-athletes and showing them what Western has to offer.
“My biggest thing is going to our target areas. Reaching out, going to Idaho, Washington, Oregon – and staying in Montana obviously,” he said. “I think it’s important to meet the kids and tell them about Western, letting them know what we have to offer. I think that says a lot to kids when you actually come out and approach them first. It makes them feel like they really want to be here.”
Though the Wilsall native has spent a good chunk of his adult life in Dillon, the time he spent in Bozeman under Bolich’s tutelage impacted the coaching methods he’ll bring back to Western with him.
Having competed in tiedown roping, team roping and steer wrestling, Lahaye said Bolich’s coaching approach to both timed events and roughstock is something he’ll be bringing into his own philosophy.
“He was tough in both things, on the roughstock side and the timed events,” Lahaye said of Bolich. “I leaned more toward the timed events. There’s so many events in rodeo, there’s never just one thing to work on.”
Meanwhile, Montana Western has one more run under Else before she gives the ship to Lahaye. The Bulldogs’ cowboys and cowgirls have one regular season rodeo left to accumulate points toward a CNFR berth.
The CNFR runs June 10-16 in Casper, Wyoming.