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After 18 years, time for a change

Doug Linton coaches during a tournament game in Cannon Falls, Minn. last December. Linton is resigning as the head coach of the New Life Academy boys’ basketball team to become an assistant coach with the Northwestern men's program. File Photo / RiverTown Multimedia

Doug Linton has been a fixture with the New Life Academy boys' basketball program for the past 18 years.

But next season, fans will see a different face on the sidelines. Linton gave his resignation last week to pursue a new position as an assistant coach with the University of Northwestern - St. Paul men's basketball program. After more than two decades coaching high school sports, Linton said he was ready to pursue a position in college basketball.

"It's tough, the past 18 years coaching at New Life have been an absolute dream," Linton said in a phone interview last week.

Over the past few years, Linton had started investigating opportunities to coach at the college level. He found interest from a like-minded head coach in Northwestern's Tim Grosz, who Linton had met during recruiting visits to the Woodbury-based private Christian school.

"I think we share a lot of similar philosophies when it comes to basketball," Linton said.

Northwestern has shown a pattern of regular season success over the past decade. The Eagles finished with a record of 20-8 last season and reached their seventh straight NCAA Division III tournament.

Linton has been a health and physical education teacher in the Henry Sibley school district for the past 27 years and will continue to teach while coaching at Northwestern.

"That was one of the hurdles that I wanted to look into," Linton said about the opportunity to continue teaching.

Linton's teams found plenty of success during his 18 years at New Life Academy. The Eagles qualified for the state tournament twice during the mid-2000s, and they have won three of the past four Minnesota Christian Athletic Association conference tournaments. Last year's team, which won the MCAA tournament and finished with a season record of 24-4, had eight seniors on the roster.

After seeing what Linton has accomplished with his 18 years of work, New Life Academy athletic director Kevin Kleiner knows having a coach with that kind of longevity is rare in today's high school sports climate.

"We think we'll have plenty of candidates, but are they going to walk in and have it at the level that Doug left behind? No, it will probably take some time to build that up with a new coach, a new system and a new voice," Kleiner said.

Linton said he plans to keep an eye on the program next season, and even hopes to slip into the gymnasium to catch a game. Who knows, he might even make an appearance to check out a few prospective Eagles.

"I'm sure we'll see him here recruiting guys, and it would be cool to see some of his former players play there with him someday again," Kleiner said.