The door was opened.
Rylie Littlejohn knew she had to walk through.
Littlejohn on Monday accepted the girls head coaching position at Bixby High School.
She’ll succeed Tina Thomas, who stepped away after eight successful seasons, including a pair of state runner-up finishes.
Littlejohn makes the Bixby move after three seasons at the helm of the Preston Lady Pirate program, one that got back to the state tournament this year for the first time since 2017.
“That was the hardest part,” said Littlejohn, who broke the news to her Preston team on Monday afternoon.
“If there was a reason I didn’t want to do this, it was them. Although I graduated a big core of the team, I still had three coming back that have been with me since they were freshmen.
“Leaving their senior year was not easy.”
But, she said, when the Bixby job opened up, she couldn’t help but be interested.
For starters, Littlejohn and her husband Chase, the Preston boys’ coach, live in Bixby.
“It’s five minutes from my house,” she said.
When the Littlejohns have had their opportunities, they’ve taken in some Bixby basketball games.
“When I’ve watched the program, I’ve thought, ‘I want to be a part of that,’” Littlejohn said. “Now, did I think it would happen this soon? No.
“But I feel God opened this door and if he opened it, I need to walk through it.”
The former Rylie Torrey, Littlejohn helped lead Locust Grove to a state championship as a player in 2015.
Her collegiate career landed her at Oral Roberts where she picked up both a bachelor’s and master’s degree prior to accepting the Preston job before the 2020-21 season.
Her first team won 14 games. Then 21 the next year.
The 2022-23 squad went 24-6 and made it to the 2A state tournament before being knocked out by Pawhuska.
While Bixby also graduated a large core of its talent, Littlejohn knows she doesn’t have to rebuild.
“It’s a good foundation and they know what winning looks like,” Littlejohn said. “They did graduate a big class with a lot of college talent, but hopefully there are more college-level players coming up.”
A school the size of Bixby, she said, certainly offers the opportunity.
“There’s so much to choose from and you can practically build the program the way you want,” she said.
She’ll begin that process later this spring during Bixby’s rounds of tryouts.
In the meantime, Littlejohn said she’s glad to be past the toughest part of the entire process.
“Talking to my Preston team today was brutal,” she said. “But I know this was the best career move as far as what’s best for me and my family.”