Girls basketball: Cards coach calls it quits to focus on family

Dustin Carlson resigns after successful 10-year run as girls baskeball coach.

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Willmar head girls basketball coach Dustin Carlson looks on during a Central Lakes Conference game against Rocori on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 at the Big Red Gym at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — The timing was right for Dustin Carlson.
He has resigned as Willmar's head girls basketball coach a year after seriously considering it.
"I kind of gave Ryan (Blahosky, Willmar's activities director) a head's up at the end of last year that I knew it would be more than likely I'd be stepping back, though nothing was official," Carlson said Monday.
Carlson coached the Cardinals for 10 years, leading them to the Section 8AAA championship this season. They lost to Detroit Lakes 46-43 and Carlson was downfallen, calling it one of the toughest losses of his career.

Dustin Carlson
Dustin Carlson

One of the reasons he came back was to coach this year's seniors, whom he said were "like his daughters."
Family also is the reason for leaving now. His son, Jackson, is a Willmar seventh-grader involved in football, basketball and baseball. And his wife, Emily, want to follow Jackson's career as closely as possible. He wants to help coach Jackson's travel teams. Emily was an assistant coach on Dustin's staff.
"It's really a tale of two loves," Dustin said. "I want to be there for the girls 100% at all times and I want to be there for my boy 100% all the time."
He came to the conclusion he would have to choose.
"I definitely wouldn't say it's a retirement," said Dustin, a 2008 Concordia College in Moorhead graduate. "I'm taking a little time off for a while.
"I love want I'm doing and the relationships I was able to create. That's the sucky part. I'm giving that up."

He is, at least, in girls basketball. He'll remain health and physical education instructor at Willmar Senior High School and plans to stay as a varsity assistant football coach, where is defensive coordinator. He also is a junior varsity golf coach.
A 2004 WHS graduate, Dustin played football at Concordia for Cobbers head coach Terry Horan, a fellow Willmar graduate. Dustin coached seventh- and eighth-grade football and ninth-grade boys basketball before becoming head varsity girls coach. In 10 seasons, Dustin had a 174-100 won-lost record, leading the Cardinals to state tournaments in 2017 and '18 and finishing as a section runner-up in '19 and '22. There also were Central Lakes Conference championships in '18 and '19 and second-place CLC finishes in '16 and '17. Willmar took third this season and in 2020.

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Willmar head girls basketball coach Dustin Carlson signals to his players during the first half of Tuesday's game against St. Cloud Tech at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown/West Central Tribune

This season's team went 19-9 and earned the top seed in Section 8AAA before losing to Detroit Lakes, a team it had beaten during the regular season.
"These girls worked their tails off and everybody does and I don't want to make it sound like only we do because that's not true," Dustin said. "Detroit Lakes played a good game and made enough shots to win.
"It was tough and disappointing to end that way, though, very tough."
He said he could see himself coming to the program sometime in the future. He wouldn't rule it out. But for now, he's stepping back.

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