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Room for One More Ring

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Nine state championships. 24 city titles. Six coach of the year honors. Over 750 wins. Rudy Carey is arguably the best basketball coach in Colorado history.

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Carey with some of his 2015-16 players. Photo courtesy of Jack Spano.

Last March however, Coach Carey came just two games shy of winning a monumental tenth state championship and adding another ring to his collection. Defeated by Overland in the semi-finals, the Angels men’s basketball team walked off the court covered in sweat and tears. They felt the loss sting their eyes. “I was really sad, it sucked. It affected me for a while,” Senior Jack Buckmelter recalls. “[After the playoff loss] All the players were crying and pretty sad, but [Carey] remained calm. He is a great leader and he helped us through those times,” Junior Scotty Wiese explains.

While not the result they hoped for, the team made it much further than expected. Their late season run to the Final Four, against the odds, was yet another accomplishment of Carey’s long career; a career that began in the halls of East High School nearly 50 years ago.

Carey’s coaching philosophy is rooted in his experiences since arriving at East. “I have had a vested interest in East High School since I came in 1968 as a sophomore…I grew up in this community. I grew up in North City Park. I walked to school everyday.”

Carey went on to win player of the year his senior year and earned a scholarship to play at Colorado State University before returning to Denver focus on coaching. “Playing pro-basketball was always my aspiration, as it is for most of these kids, but you have to have a plan B, and I did have a plan B.”

In light of this, Carey’s coaching career began. He coached 14 seasons at Manual High School and won three state championships before the job opened up at East. “It was always my dream job to come back [to East]…This is home for me.”

DENVER, CO. - MARCH 08: Denver East High School boy's basketball team head coach Rudy Carey, right, celebrates his 700th win with Brian Carey #11 at Denver Coliseum. East High School won the 5A state quarter final game against Arapahoe High School by 60-55. March 8, 2013. Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Carey, after winning the 2014 state championship with his nephew , former East basketball player Brian Carey. Photo courtesy of the Denver Post.

 

 

Since his arrival, Carey has redefined the standards of East basketball. He remembers, “East was actually in 4A basketball and they were competitive but not championship caliber. I hired some very good coaches and we assembled some very good players, trying to weed out the knuckleheads if you will. We started with good kids and we changed the culture and values [of the program].”

His illustrious career is a testament to the values he has instilled in every group of players he has coached. However, Carey humbly attributes his success to those around him. “We have a very good coaching staff. We have been together over 20 years,” he continues, “I’m only as good as my assistant coaches. Everybody has a different role in being successful… I am just one component. I really am. I have a role along with all of the other coaches, the teachers, so do [the students]. Everybody plays a role in the success of these young men. ”

Carey selflessly recognizes one assistant coach, his son David, as a key to his success. “He’s probably the largest single component of our success because he does most of the work in the gym. He’s young enough to get out there and demonstrate things.With the help of his assistant coaches, Carey has amassed a noteworthy track record. Since his first season in 1992, he has led the Angels to 6 state championships and won over 700 career games.

Despite having an obvious influence on the growth of the program, Carey continues to give credit to others. “Great players make great coaches. If you don’t have great players you are never gonna be a great coach. I don’t care how good a coach you are, you can’t make a great team without great players.”

Although Carey tends to downplay his role in the team’s success, his players think otherwise. Junior Scotty Wiese states, “He’s definitely the best coach I’ve ever had throughout my entire basketball career. He’s not only a great coach and person on the court, but he helps us off the court.”

Senior Ian Osburn agrees, saying, “Basically he just makes the team about more than just basketball…like a family and he makes us a better team and makes us all closer.”

Players lucky enough to have been coached by Carey are better equipped with the skills they need to continue their careers beyond high school. Because of this, East has become a well-oiled machine, reeling out top talent for years. Carey notes, “At East High School we have secured the most scholarship money and put more kids into school because of basketball than any program in the history of Colorado.”

“I think that we are going to be a very good basketball team this year. We have good leadership on the floor with our captain Jack Buckmelter, so I think we have an honest chance of being a champion,” Carey remarks.

However, the game can be unpredictable. Carey acknowledges that winning a championship is not simple. “There is a difference between being good and being a championship caliber team and it depends on how hard they work… Imposing power, values, and philosophy, that’s what we have to do to win, we have to impose on our opponent.”

Equipped with a talented group of young men, Carey has what he needs to shape the group for the competition ahead. “You not only have to adapt to teams but you have to adapt to your players. We have to play a style that fits our clientele. If you have seen one of my teams, you’ve probably seen all of them in terms of our style of play, but there are certain things that you have to adjust with each certain team because the players are so much different.”

Now with all eyes on the coming season, Carey has a strong, tested formula for success. “I think that a lot of the better teams in Colorado we can match up against pretty well,” says Junior Joe Abiakam.

With the experience and leadership in Jack Buckmelter and Deron Harrell, a 6-foot-8 transfer Daytone Jennings, and a plethora of returning players, East may have exactly what it needs to return the trophy to the City Park Esplanade and get Carey his tenth ring. Wiese states, “Every year he competes at the top level…So I think he has room for one, two, even more than that.”

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