BILLINGS — Six years removed from playing his last soccer match, West High pride still runs deep for Luke Ashmore. So when the Golden Bears’ boys head coaching job came open in March, Ashmore knew he had to pursue it.
“Coaching at West was kind of the dream for me,” Ashmore said. “I loved the school and I loved seeing what the previous coaches did with the program.”
It became a reality on Thursday when School District 2 activities director Mark Wahl announced that Ashmore had been hired to take over the coaching reins at his alma mater. Ashmore replaces previous coach Dylan Barnard, who stepped down after five seasons and five consecutive State AA postseason appearances.
Ashmore was an academic all-state player at West before graduating in 2013. He currently attends Montana State Billings, from where he is set to earn a degree in English after finishing one final course in the fall.
Ashmore seems just as excited to tackle his new duties as West's coach.
“Immediately for me as a coach, I need to get my feet wet,” he said. “It’s going to be about building relationships with the kids in the program.”
Ashmore, who played his first three years at West under Mike Mayott and his senior season under Marco Rosales, went to the state tournament in each of his four seasons with the Golden Bears. To his recollection, he was a member of the last West team to beat Eastern AA power Bozeman on the road.
Ashmore is one of four siblings to come through the Bears’ soccer program. Brothers Eric and Paul also played, while a youngest brother Clark will be a sophomore in 2019.
His familiarity of the lay of the land is something Ashmore hopes will be beneficial.
“I’ve kind of been orbiting the team for the past decade, and so it feels like a natural fit,” he said. “But I’m a couple generations removed to where it’s not going to be a buddy-buddy relationship but a position of wisdom where I understand where they’re coming from as West High players.”
Ashmore said he doesn’t possess much coaching experience — he’s only taken on some community coaching assignments locally — but he feels strongly about his soccer philosophy.
The Bears, he said, will employ an up-tempo style.
“Quick, attacking soccer,” Ashmore explained. “I think when I look at a team like West and seeing the kids that they have, I want to make sure we’re playing a fast-paced game.
“I’m not someone who likes to sit back on the ball and play a methodical game. I’m a huge fan of the counter-attack and that’s what the kids will be doing.”
Ashmore said his goals for the West program will be to compete at the top of the Eastern conference and ultimately be among the contenders for the state championship.
“I really felt like I had to go for this job. I’m really happy it worked out,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. They still have a really talented squad and I think I’ll be able to acclimate quickly to the environment.”