Throughout the summer, NAU Athletics will take a look back and catch up with former Lumberjack women's basketball players in a Where Are They Now series.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – In life, everything is about timing. Being at the right place at the right moment with the right people often dictates opportunities. What people do with those opportunities will dictate success.
Lindsey Foster always knew she wanted to be a coach. Since her career at Northern Arizona University came to a close in 2003, her timing has been fortuitous in leading her down a highly successful coaching path which actually started at her alma mater.
"I knew I always wanted to coach but at what level, I wasn't sure," Foster said. "I've been blessed with being around good people every step of the way. My head coach (at NAU) Meg Sanders and her first assistant John Margaritis were very good mentors and they were connected with what we wanted to do (after college). They knew I wanted to get into coaching, so when John stuck around when Laurie Kelly took over, I got started at NAU."
Foster, a secondary education major at NAU, was wrapping up her student teaching during her fifth year following her playing career when the Lumberjacks underwent a coaching change with Kelly taking over the reins prior to the 2003-04 season. The timing was perfect as Foster was still around the team and she was offered a spot on the Lumberjack bench.
While she was just a season removed from competing on the court, Foster gained valuable experience that she would be able to put to use in the future. Even as an undergraduate assistant, Foster was a full part of the Lumberjacks' recruiting efforts that would net future players like Alyssa Wahl, Kim Winkfield, Laura Dinkins and Natalie Metz – all of whom would be important members of NAU's 2006 Big Sky Championship team.
"It's always bittersweet when your career tells you when you're done," Foster said. "I was excited for the team that year because they had a young group of talent. I was there for their recruiting visits and I built good relationships with them. It was fun to be around them during their freshman year and I wasn't surprised at all when they won the (Big Sky) tournament."
When Margaritis left to take the head coaching gig at UC Riverside following that season, Foster jumped at the opportunity when he asked her to join him at UCR. During her six-year stint as an assistant coach, she helped UCR to five winning seasons including three Big West Tournament championships which led to three NCAA Tournament appearances plus a WNIT bid.
Then following the 2009-10 season which ended with UC Riverside reaching its third NCAA Tournament in Foster's tenure, Cal State Northridge's head coach position became vacant. When Jason Flowers, a fellow assistant along with Foster at UC Riverside, accept the Cal State Northridge position, another opportunity presented itself for the former 'Jack. Five years later, Foster is entering her fifth season this fall as a CSUN assistant coming off CSUN's first ever Big West Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance as a member of the conference.
All in all, Foster may have found herself in fortunate positions at the right time, but her success speaks for itself as her teams have made national postseason appearances in six of her 10 years as an assistant coach with seven winning seasons between her time at UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge.
"I got into coaching because I thought how much of a tool it was to change lives and create experiences that I would never have had without basketball," Foster said. "The places I've traveled, the people I've met and the obstacles I've overcome; the most gratifying thing is to watch those same things through our young women. Physical, emotional and mental boundaries are being pushed every day and for me, seeing the growth when we get them at 17, 18 or 19 years old and they leave as grown 22, 23 year old women is so dramatic."
Impeccable timing should not come to a surprise for those who watched Foster set her teammates up with timely passes at NAU and leave as one of the program's all-time great point guards. She left as the school's all-time leader in assists – and she's currently third with 379 career assists – and she took pride in making the right pass rather than necessarily scoring.
"I always loved setting other people up so I was definitely a pass-first point guard," Foster said. "I loved pushing the ball up and I was always trying to run the fast break and get a lay-up. For whatever reason, I was never high on putting the ball in the basket. I wanted to get others involved and to me that was the ultimate reward of playing a team sport."
Foster remains the school record holder with 238 career steals and held the all-time free throw percentage until this past season at an 81.8 percent clip. Her performance at the charity stripe during the 2001-02 season is the best in Big Sky history as she holds the conference season record for free throw percentage at 92.1 percent. A dangerous three-point shooter in her own right, sixth in NAU history, the Washington native had quite the career in Flagstaff – a career that never would have happened without the urging of her high school coach.
"UC Irvine was at the top of my list because I mostly cared about it being in California right by the beach," Foster said. "But we were advised by our high school coach to take all of our visits and then I was won over by the people at NAU and it was the best decision I made. My entire experience there was based on good people around me whether it was the coaching staff, the athletic training staff and my teammates. I couldn't imagine a better place I could've picked based on the people."
Last season, Foster's Northridge team came out victorious when her current squad and her alma mater met in California. This upcoming season, Foster will return to Flagstaff when her Matadors make the trip to play the Lumberjacks in the Skydome. While it will be a homecoming that she hopes a lot of her fellow NAU alumni attend, it will be the exception to her constant rooting for the Blue & Gold.
"I have such a sense of pride when it comes to NAU and I love branding changes going on," Foster said. "Anything I can do to help out my alma mater, I absolutely will do. I'm competitive so we want to win, but at the same time I'm disappointed someone has to lose. I'm always rooting for NAU, always."
So while Foster will enter her 11th season overall as a full-time assistant, she hopes one day along the way she will get a chance at being a head coach just as her current leader and mentor Flowers got at CSUN. But she will not jump at any opportunity.
"It has always been my ultimate goal to be a head coach," Foster said. "I also realize and understand from being around great teachers like John, Meg and now Jason that it's very much about the right fit as far as the university, administration and community support. It's not necessarily about getting any head coaching job, it's getting the right head coaching job."
With her timing and her track record, she is bound to find the right opportunity. And when that time comes, she is bound to flourish.