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East's Rusty Horsley calls it a career in coaching

Apr. 11—CHEYENNE — This December will mark the first time since 2009 that Rusty Horsley hasn't been a head basketball coach for Cheyenne East.

Horsley announced to his Thunderbirds boys players Thursday morning that he is retiring from a coaching career that saw him become the first coach in Wyoming history to guide both a girls and a boys team to Class 4A state championships.

East's boys posted a 22-8 record and placed fifth at the state tournament this past season.

"I've done it a long time, and getting on and off buses was getting old," Horsley said. "I didn't think I was coaching to the best of my ability with age, and I want the kids to have better. My energy level in practice was low at times.

"I've always been the guy who brings energy and tries to get the players going in practice. My energy level was dropping a bit, and the late practices were getting tough. I felt like if they could get someone else in there that could really work the boys, it would be great."

Horsley noted that two of the three classes returning next season won the freshman-level Geldien League championship, and the other reached the semifinals.

"We have a great group of boys coming back, and I think it's a good time for someone else to step in," he said. "We've got some real studs coming back. It's a good group with a lot of talent. I want to leave the next person a full cupboard."

Horsley was the Lady T-Birds coach for nine seasons, compiling a 185-66 record with two state championships (2010 and '17) and four state runner-up finishes (2013-15, '18). East's girls also were third once during his tenure ('16).

He moved over to the boys sideline in 2019, coaching the T-Birds to a 127-34 mark with one state title (2023) and one runner-up finish ('22) across six seasons.

In all, Horsley's teams amassed a 312-100 win-loss record. He was voted 4A coach of the year three times.

"The move he made from coaching girls to boys is one thing that's going to stand out to me about his tenure," East athletics director Jerry Schlabs said.

"Girls basketball is a different type of game, and you may have to run more sets or do things differently. Boys basketball is, at times, a faster pace and a different type of approach and game plan.

"Year in and year out, he did a great job of adjusting to the talent he had and knowing whether he had to slow the game down or whether he had the kids capable of getting out and speeding it up, whether to run more sets or let the kids play freely. He has a knack for that, and put the kids in the spots they and the team could be the most successful."

Horsley also has served as an assistant for football, basketball and track during his time teaching at East. Schlabs said Horsley's impact at the school extends far beyond the gym and playing fields.

"He's done so much for our school and the culture of our programs," Schlabs said. "He's had such a huge impact on students and kids, not just as a coach, but as a teacher. You can't walk through the halls with him without having to stop every 10 feet to talk to some kids.

"He's very well-liked and has been really impactful during his time here. He's going to be missed."

Horsley only has a few years of teaching physical education and health remaining before retirement. Stepping away from coaching is part of his ramping down process.

"I've had a tremendous group of kids with the girls and boys programs," Horsley said. "We've spent countless hours on busses. When we started, we'd take the kids up to Montana and run around with them all summer long.

"My assistant coaches have been all over with me. We got to spend a lot of time together and work with some great kids to prepare them for the season. We had such good kids that we had some success along the way."

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Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on X at @jjohnke.