By: Shawn O’Brate
CASPER – This past Wednesday the Wyoming Coaches Association (WCA) held their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony with many familiar names from around the state officially reaching that final level of accomplishments as coaches.
Douglas Bearcats’ wrestling, track and football coach, Jeff Barnett, joined the ranks alongside Campbell County High School’s Mark Miessler and Renee Schultz. Star Valley High School’s historically great basketball and football coach, Ballard Johnson, was also inducted after longtime Wyoming Cowboy and Douglas Bearcat wrestling coach Bob Bath.
But the most familiar name in the group for anybody who has lived in Riverton, or Fremont County, for the past forty years was Riverton’s Gary Lee who coached the Lady Wolverines for over a decade and brought nothing but success to the high school and the town.
Lee came to Riverton in 1980 after coaching in Dupree, South Dakota where he coached boys and girls basketball along with girls’ track. Those Dupree Tigers won back-to-back conference titles while the Lady Tigers won their first-ever district tournament games and placed second under Lee.
But, when he arrived at Riverton High School his success only became bigger and bigger. Almost immediately, Lee brought the girls to two straight state championship titles (1982-83, 83-84) with a combined 46-1 record–including a 24-0 record in 1984–which was far and away the best in the state.
He not only coached girls’ basketball but he also was the head coach for both the girls’ and boys’ golf teams and was an assistant coach for the Riverton Wolverines’ football team.
Lee received three separate WCA Coach of the Year awards, was Region Seven nominee for National High School Girls’ Basketball Coach of the year and was co-coach of the very first WCA All-Star Game.
His Riverton girls’ basketball teams bolstered an astonishing 185-76 over his 11 seasons and he brought four regional championships, 10 straight 4A State Tournament appearances, and coached up multiple All-Conference, All-Regional and All-State girls’ basketball players. He also coached two national High School All-Americans during his time at Riverton as well.
This includes 2x All-State, 2x State Champion Shelley Marlyst (RHS ‘81-’84) who scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds in the 4A State Championship game to cap off an undefeated (24-0) season. Marlyst was also 4A Co-Player of the year (‘84), 1st team Casper Star-Tribune Top 20 (‘83 & ‘84), the Milward Simpson Award winner (‘84) and Converse All-American.
After Riverton, Lee served as Activities Director, as well as the boys’ and girls’ golf coach, at Torrington where he earned consecutive 3A East Conference championships and placed second at state in consecutive seasons.
Lee, who currently lives in Loveland, Colorado, coached for almost 30 years and sits with a combined basketball record of 240-123.
His mindset has never changed, even after all the success, as he stated to an interviewer that he “coached because [he] loved the sport” and that “it isn’t always about winning but how you competed and can walk away saying you were prepared and did your best.”
Lee was certainly deserving of the award and will forever be remembered as one of the best coaches in Riverton, and Wyoming girls’ basketball, during his lifetime.