One year after taking a job as the assistant coach for the Casper College men’s basketball team, Shaun Gutting is now the man in charge of the Thunderbird program.
Gutting will take over for Dan Russell, who left earlier this month for an assistant coaching job at Montana State University after serving as the T-Birds’ head coach the past six seasons.
“I’m excited to hit the ground running,” Gutting said. “I’m trying to enjoy it a little bit before I start stressing.”
Gutting takes over a program coming off its most successful season in decades. The T-Birds went 32-3 this year, were ranked No. 6 in the final regular season National Junior College Athletics Association Top 25, won the Region IX championship and qualified for the NJCAA Division I Tournament for the first time since 1996.
While Gutting admitted the last 24 hours have been “a little overwhelming,” he has started to settle into his new role.
“The top things on my list right now are hiring an assistant coach and finishing recruiting,” he said.
“Other things are important, but I have to find guys that will fit Casper and fit our system first before I start knocking out all the other projects. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a process.”
Russell knows all about that process. An assistant coach at Casper College for five seasons before taking over as head coach, he believes the hiring committee made the right call in selecting Gutting.
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“I feel like Shaun deserves this opportunity and he’s going to do a good job with it,” Russell said. “What makes me think that he’s going to take the program to new heights and keep rolling with it is his eagerness to get better. I feel confident that he’s going to become a fabulous head coach in the future.”
Prior to coming to Casper College, the 30-year-old Gutting spent five seasons as an assistant coach at New Mexico Junior College. A graduate of Colorado State University, he served as a student-manager for the Rams (2008-11) and coached at Fort Collins (Colorado) High School from 2011-13.
Gutting takes over a team that has to replace six players who signed to play at the Division I level, and another who signed with a DII program. But with turnover always a big component of junior college basketball, maintaining continuity in the coaching staff played in his favor.
Casper College athletics director Angel Sharman said the hiring committee received “a large number of applicants,” but that Gutting separated himself from the others for reasons other than his knowledge of the game.
“We saw what everybody else saw,” Sharman said, “that he had a great rapport with the guys and the players really wanted him. And he knows what Casper is about and he knows the type of kids that can handle Casper and who will be successful in Casper … because the community and its support played a big role in this.”
Despite having spent just one year with the T-Birds program, Gutting knows the importance of getting the right assistant coaches and players to Casper. For now, though, he’s just trying to take a moment to let it all sink in.
“Being able to share the news with my family was really special to me because I come from a basketball family,” Gutting said. “It really hasn’t hit me yet, and I don’t know if it will for a little while. It’s such a surreal thing that I feel lucky to have happened to me.
“I’ve tried to take those moments, but even then my head starts going in a lot of different directions. I’m kind of on cloud nine at this point.”