Casper College men’s head basketball coach Dan Russell is leaving to take an assistant coaching job at Montana State University.
Casper College announced the move Thursday and Russell confirmed the move in a telephone interview.
Last season, the Thunderbirds won the Region IX championship for the first time in 1996.
Russell’s latest move adds to an already busy nine months. He married Keisha Perry on Aug. 9 of last year, and the couple are expecting their first child on July 29. Russell will wrap up some loose ends in Casper before heading to Bozeman, Montana, later this month to work for longtime friend Danny Sprinkle, who was named the Bobcats’ head coach on April 4.
“We’re very excited to be taking this next step,” Russell said, “but it was a very, very difficult decision, obviously, with my family here and me having played here and coached here for a long time. Casper College has been a major part of my life.”
Russell was an assistant coach at Casper College for five years before being named the Thunderbirds’ head coach on April 15, 2013. He went 145-52 in six seasons with the T-Birds, including a 32-3 record this season. Casper College was ranked No. 6 in the final National Junior College Athletics Association Top 25 poll. The T-Birds lost to Cleveland State Community College in the first round of the NJCAA Division I Championship. Russell was named the Region IX Coach of the Year last month.
“This year has been a fun and exciting year,” Russell said, “but it’s been crazy. I have to give a lot of credit to my staff for keeping my head above water. And the players … it was such a phenomenal group to coach because not only did they have superior talent, but they had the best chemistry of any team I’ve ever coached.”
Russell was an all-state basketball and football player at Natrona County High School before playing at Casper College (2004-06). He finished his college career at Black Hills State and spent one year as a graduate assistant at the University of Wyoming before returning to his hometown to work under former Casper College head coach Joel Davidson.
“I really would like to add how much I appreciated the support of Casper and the community,” he said. “They backed me being the local guy who got the job when I was 26 years old and supported me through all my ups and downs.”
Russell added that he “could thank 20 people who helped me get to where I am,” but made special mention of Casper College athletics director Angel Sharman, vice president of student services Kim Byrd, Casper College president Dr. Darren Devine, women’s basketball coach Dwight Gunnare, Davidson and former athletics director Bill Landen.
“All of them were so instrumental in my development,” Russell said. “And I’m extremely thankful to Bill for taking a chance on a 26-year-old kid from Casper, Wyoming, and giving him his first head coaching job.”