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In Play with Craig Mattick: Lyle Dusty LeBeaux

Lyle Dusty LeBeaux
South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

Lyle Dusty LeBeaux is one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in South Dakota with 26-years of experience - all on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He coached both boys and girls basketball, and one of the very few coaches to get state championships for the girls and the boys. He had 500-plus wins. He took 19 teams to the State Basketball Tournament, and he is also in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
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Craig Mattick:
Welcome to another edition of In Play. I'm Craig Mattick. Our guests today, one of the most successful basketball coaches in South Dakota. He coached both boys and girls basketball, and one of the very few coaches to get state championships for the girls and the boys. 26 years of coaching, 500 plus wins. In fact, he took 19 teams to the State Basketball Tournament, think about that. Over 26 years, 19 teams, to the State Basketball Tournament. And he is also in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. Our guest today is Lyle Dusty LeBeaux. Dusty, welcome to In Play.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, thank you.

Craig Mattick:
So where did the Dusty name come from?

Dusty LeBeaux:
I don't know. I just adopted this by my dad and mom. I really never asked, I just thought that was my name.

Craig Mattick:
It certainly stayed with you, didn't it?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yes, it did.

Craig Mattick:
You have spent your entire life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. You graduated from Oglala Community School back in 1971. What was high school like for you, Dusty?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, that's quite a while ago. You're asking me to go way back here, isn't? I enjoyed it, and I was one of the kind that I went to school and I didn't get to play high school ball because I quit and I'd go back. But the main thing is I got to graduate high school.

Craig Mattick:
Not a lot for athletics for you as a teenager, as a kid?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah. I could play the game. I knew how. It was just me getting to school and all of that stuff the young people go through and I just wasn't really focused I guess.

Craig Mattick:
Knowing that, was that something that you experienced? Is that something you tried to teach all of those kids when you were in the school, no matter where it was, Red Cloud or Little Wound or Pine Ridge?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah. Always. I stressed the importance of graduating and going on. And my thing to all of them, I believe, I told the story of, "Whatever you do in life, you'd be the best at it. Whether you're a lawyer, doctor, bus driver, janitor, everything in life that you might be, be the best at it." I said, "Wino. If you're going to be a wino, then be the best wino," and they all laughed. "A wino? Why'd you say that?"

So I told them a little story and I told them that the people who have less like that, they have something inside of them that makes them equal to a person that has a lot in God's eyes. I said, "You have something."

They say, "What?"

I said, "Maybe they have more love or there's something that makes them equal and then it wasn't just being wino. " Praise that my deal was just being a good person.

Craig Mattick:
That is awesome. What happened after high school? You started teaching or coaching in 1987, but what happened to you once you had graduated?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, I had a girlfriend back in high school and we got married, but after high school I was a cowboy. Me and my brothers used to ride at rodeos. We were bull riders and my brother was a champ, South Dakota Rodeo Association. He was a champ for about three years. He was better than me and my little brother but we all used to ride bulls.

Craig Mattick:
I did not know that.

Dusty LeBeaux: So we used to do that. We took up that sport and I wasn't as good as my brother but I rode. I won. If I didn't win, I wouldn't have did it but I've won some.

Craig Mattick:
Was it always a goal for you to stay in the area and become a coach?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, I had eight kids and after the first one, Bo, when he was first grade, second grade, third grade, I'd teach him at home. But when he got into the fourth grade, and they didn't let him play in elementary, so what I did is I got all those kids that was his age and I would take them to a gym and show them different things. And then I started taking them to these YMCA tournaments and they would play in them and they were pretty good. And then after that, Our Lady of Lourdes, one of the elementary schools here, hired me, wanted me to coach there. So I went up there and coached the boys and girls. And I coached the football team for them.

Craig Mattick:
You did football too?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah, we're undefeated.

Craig Mattick:
Well, that doesn't surprise me if you were coaching. Right, Dusty?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah. And then after that, Our Lady of Lourdes, the elementary school here in Pine Ridge, they were connected to Red Cloud. El Cooney was the principal at Red Cloud then and he asked me to put in for the job there.

Craig Mattick:
The girls' basketball coach too, right? Girls and boys?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah. It was just girls-

Craig Mattick:
At the time?

Dusty LeBeaux:
... The first year in and that couple years, and I did both of them after that.

Craig Mattick:
People may not remember or don't know that South Dakota used to have the girls basketball in the fall and volleyball was in the winter. And you coached the girls and then straight into boys basketball and you did that for what? 13 years before the season switch.

What was it like for you coaching basketball in the fall, in the winter, with really no break coaching basketball?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, I forgot who I was talking to, I believe it was one of my sons. I said, "How did I ever do that?" I was either really into it or I don't know, and I said, "Holy smokes." I never got to coach the other kids other than Bo in elementary. The rest of my kids, I didn't get to see them until high school but I keep track of them, they would let me know. But they all played for me when they did get up there but it took a lot. It seemed like I was there... We either work at 8:00 AM down there and not leave until 8:30, 9 o'clock every night so that's why I say, "Geez, how did I do that? I must have been young and really-"

Craig Mattick:
You were having a blast is what you were having there, Dusty.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, yeah. Being with the kids and trying to teach them something.

Craig Mattick:
How did you come up with your style of coaching?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Sometimes I ask myself that myself. I just went and did it and probably people say, "How did you do it?" And it was like, if I didn't have the kids there is that... Probably the most important thing that was between me and the kids was the respect they had for me. And I would give that respect right back to them and we always got along.

Craig Mattick:
What other coaches did you look up to? I'm assuming you talked to a lot of other coaches during your time with basketball and talked basketball with other coaches.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, I used to idolize Davey Strain and what he did, and my dad did too. He would always say, "I'm going to send you to play for that guy."

Craig Mattick:
Out in Rapid City.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Just the fact of him having a season, going into a tournament 10 and 8, or 8 and 10, and still winning it at the end. I like that.

Craig Mattick:
You're coaching Red Cloud Boys and Girls Basketball from about what, 1987, to about, what, 1999? On the boys side, you made it to the finals, 1990, versus Custer. Custer won the game, 52-46, but it was your first ever trip to the championship game. How did your team react getting to that title game that year?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, they knew they were just as good as everybody else. We played Custer early at the Coordination for the championship, and that's probably where me and Larry Luitjens became real good friends after that, and they beat us in that by five. After he got done he said, "I'll see you in March." And I told him, "We'll be there."

Craig Mattick:
Well, you did get on a roll because you made it to the state tournament five years in a row and then in 1995, you take your boys to the championship game this time versus Howard and Red Cloud wins their first championship 83-76 in a high scoring game. What do you remember about that first championship game beating Howard?

Dusty LeBeaux:
That was probably the most memorable one because we made it there and we eventually won it with just five players, because Jerome-

Craig Mattick:
Your son.

Dusty LeBeaux:
... He hurt his knee in the semi-finals game so he didn't get to play in the championship game. He did for a while but he probably shouldn't have, people said, but he wanted to get out there. He worked his hell off just like everybody else. He didn't care. So we put him out there and he re-injured it again in the first quarter, he wasn't in very long. But that lifted the other ones up and they stepped up and played harder than ever after that, because he was the leader of the team and just having him there with them-

Craig Mattick:
Like I had mentioned, you'd made the State Basketball Tournament five years in a row. What was it about the kids that you had during those five years that you had, including the one that won the title back in '95? What was it about those kids?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, like I said, you go back to the respect the kids had and when you get that from them, they return things. And just getting them to believe that they can do this no matter how young you are and you're playing this game and tell them, "You're seniors too. Don't go out there thinking you're young and you're going to learn. Go out there and play the game. Have that confidence." Just saying things to make them believe in their selves.

Craig Mattick:
On the girls side, you're coaching the Red Cloud Girls, you made four trips to the state tournament including a runner-up finish in 1991 versus Miller. That was a four point win for Miller. It was close, it was tight. What made the difference for Miller in that game?

Dusty LeBeaux:
I thought we probably should have won it. We led them down the stretch there and we had some important key players fall out. We thought I'm not going to see that but when you have your higher leading score fall out and your other point guard fall out. No, I still thought if they were in it, we would've did it, but that's the way it goes. We had our chances.

Craig Mattick:
You took some time off after coaching at Red Cloud, you'd been there a while, coached the boys and the girls and then took a year or so off. But then you returned to coaching in 1999, I think, and it was at Little Wound. Why the change from Red Cloud to Little Wound?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well there goes a story there too. Right after we made it to the state tournament and me and my wife are coming back and we were talking and I told her, "I made this school, these kids all happy." Even when you're going to go to the state tournament, the whole student body is happy and proud. And I would say, and I was soner, but I said, "What makes me sad is when I look on the other side and I see those other ones that we beat." I said, "I see crying and I didn't like that." And so my wife said, "Well why don't you go over there and coach them?"

Craig Mattick:
So you went to Little Wound and you took the boys twice to the state tournament?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah, so I did do it. I made the move. Try and give that to some other kids too, that feeling of joy and being proud and being happy.

Craig Mattick:
What were those teams like that you took to the state tournament from Little Wound? What were those boys? What kind of a team did you have?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well I had Jess Hart.

Craig Mattick:
Yeah. He had what? 50 points I believe. 51, I think, in one of the games.

Dusty LeBeaux:
My son Mile and my nephew Drew LeBeaux, they went over there and Corey Provost, Jay Jacobs. And that was a good crew of them.

It was the same thing because when I went there, I had that respect of the kids and we did everything that I did at the other schools, which most people thought was really tough.

Craig Mattick:
I think Jess put up his 50 at the Sioux Falls Arena in that state tournament, if I remember.

Dusty LeBeaux:
They ask what player that you thought could have made it to and NBA, and I always said Jess Hart would've been the kid to do it because he was big enough and he was a good shooter.

Craig Mattick:
One of the most gifted and dazzling girls basketball players in the state was SuAnne Big Crow Pine Ridge. Of course, she was South Dakota's Miss Basketball in 1992. She died in a car accident on her way to the Miss Basketball banquet in Huron. She's playing for Pine Ridge in the early nineties. I think you're still a Red cloud. What was it like watching SuAnne Big Crow play?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well it was like we ended up playing them and that was a big rivalry, big time. That's when it was... People were really, really into that. My preparation was to get the ball out of her hands because she'd get the ball and just go and she would be all over the court. You couldn't stop her, nobody who was that good. And so what we tried to do and make the other ones try and beat us and we had a good game with them, the region championship, we ended up winning. But on that one, I don't know, that was a lot of people watching that.

Craig Mattick:
Every year the Spirit of Su Award is presented at the State Basketball Tournament ever since she passed. Why has her name lasted this long? What was it about SuAnne that, boy, we still honor a great player?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well just being around and everybody has seen her play the game. She'd probably walk in other gyms and her name would almost have them defeated.

Craig Mattick:
Yeah, they knew what was coming.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah, they knew what was coming with her and how to stop her and stuff. And just her doing that all those years is... There was something.

Craig Mattick:
It's about 2001 and you move from Little Wound to Pine Ridge. So what was curious about Pine Ridge for you to make the move?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, the same thing. I seen the kids from there too with that sadness of not making it. And that was just like, I think about if I'm ever and coach and that gave me time to think. And my wife had cancer and I was being able to stay home with her and we were home. And then the boys basketball, five of the starters for the Pine Ridge Thorpes and these guys were coming back the following year, they came out and they wanted me to coach them. They wanted me to put in the letter of intent to coach them. And they came to my house, they recruited me. I didn't think I would get the job up there because of the rivalry being so tough. But they were there and they were asking me and saying, "Please, come on."

So I said, "Okay."

My wife, she said, ""Go do it."

So I put it for the job and they gave it to me.

Craig Mattick:
Well you took the Pine Ridge girls to the championship game in 2004. I think that was in Aberdeen, you were taking on [Sisedine 00:18:40] in Watertown. And Sisedine was on an amazing run. They had made what? Four consecutive trips to the finals? They won it back to back in 2000 and 2001. They were a runner-up in three, but by golly in '04 Sisseton won that game. What was special about your 2004 Pine Ridge team?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, I believe that's the team we had Laura.

Craig Mattick:
You had Laura Big Crow?

Dusty LeBeaux:
And the job was awesome.

Craig Mattick:
She was awesome.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Get the ball to Laura. She was pretty tough on there, but she could also step out and shoot. But she would lead us in point and rebound. And we had some other girls who can shoot out there and I had my youngest daughter, she was on that team, Laney.

Craig Mattick:
Five years later, the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes win their second ever basketball title. You had to take on a really good Dell Rapids team and you won that game by six. What was it about winning a title for the Lady Thorpes?

Dusty LeBeaux:
That was good, especially for those young ladies. Christianese, the sisters, Sophie, [Banty 00:19:56] Sudanne, the cousin, Lacy Brings Plenty. That was really a good year. On that year we lost one game. We went up to Spearfish and Rapid City Central JV beat us. And when we were on the bus, they knew I was upset with them. They didn't show up to play. And I was set up in front on the way back and then all of a sudden they was all around me and they were telling me sorry. And they made the promise, they said, "We promise you, we'll never lose again."

Craig Mattick:
Wow, your demeanor on the court, so soft. You never blew up on the sideline, dusty.

Dusty LeBeaux:
It wasn't in my practice. Those kids knew that it was serious. When we got that gym for practice, they knew, that's where they would get their butts chewed up was in practice. They knew that, but they also knew that when we was out of that gym that I would do anything for them. We would laugh and we'd get to joke.

Craig Mattick:
Dusty, 26 years of coaching, you took 19 different teams to the State Basketball Tournament. You have a boy state basketball title with Red Cloud, a girl state basketball title with Pine Ridge. Not a lot of coaches have that honor, but it was 2009. You're coaching the Pine Ridge girls and you decide to be the co-head coach of the Pine Ridge Boys basketball team with your son Jerome. What was going on at that time?

Dusty LeBeaux: Well, I had to coach against him too. He was the coach of Red Cloud and I was coaching at Pine Ridge and we met up in the Al and I tournament and we had to play his team. Of course, I won. No, it was really, it was tough. If I had my say so, I'd say, "No, I don't want to do this." But that's the way the tournament ended up and I had to do it.

Craig Mattick:
Did Jerome try to convince you to co-coach the boys on Pine Ridge that year?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yes he did. He was the head coach. And what happened there was, there was some kind of restriction where he had to do some, I forget what it was, in order for him to be able to coach. I had to be the head coach, but he was really the play caller. He did everything.

Craig Mattick:
So you're coaching the boys and the girls at the same time that year?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Yeah.

Craig Mattick:
Did you just go to away games or stay at home games? How did you work that out?

Dusty LeBeaux:
No, I had to go to all of them. I just let him go and then I'd let him know, "Try this. You could try that." But I wasn't constantly on in trying to change anything. I just let him go at the main decisions.

Craig Mattick:
Dusty, you have eight kids and you coached each one on a basketball team and you took each of your kids to a state basketball tournament. How thrilling was that to be the coach of your kids?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, it should be like, wow, but we just did it. It was always with the kids. And they all know that I would work with my kids and I would give this to the teams that I'd coach, which was always, "No brag, just fact." We just did things and let it take its course. And with the other kids too, and this is the way I am is, I want to go in and just do things, not really want to be noticed. This is what I tell kids, "When we go in somebody else's house, win or lose, we come out looking good. We don't say nothing to nobody, we just, no brag, just fact." We leave that with the people, and I said, "When you leave them with that, then they're going to want to come watch you again." And there was a lot of people who did because they thought the kids were well mannered and this is what I wanted for them.

Craig Mattick:
You even coached one of your grandkids and took him to the state tournament. Come on, Dusty, not very many coaches are able to say, "I coached my grandkids to the state tournament."

Dusty LeBeaux:
He got hurt too. And I believe if he didn't, there might have been another championship. But he hurt his foot and we had to sit him out. But him too was just, Let me play grandpa, I worked hard." So he didn't get to.... He played, I had 20 some points first game, but he couldn't go with the rest of the tournament. So that was Bo's son, Jeff.

Craig Mattick:
Okay. What was it like playing in the Lakota National Invitation Tournament?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well that was the kids, they looked forward to that. But mine was always telling them what we wanted to be at the end. This was at the very beginning and I told them, "We'll go up and do what we have to here and it's not the end of the world, because our goal is at the end to get that state tournament. This is what we're working on." And it's not taking away nothing from it, but it's a good tournament. But you want the kids at the end too, doing their best to get to the state tournament.

Craig Mattick:
Do you remember how many times you won the Al and I for the boys or the girls?

Dusty LeBeaux:
No, I don't. But Wayne Carner reminded me that I played in more championships than anybody. I said, "Really? I did?" I don't sit on and do that, take stats.

Craig Mattick:
You never did that? You weren't a stat guy, were you? You didn't follow how many wins you had, even though you were almost 550 wins in your career and state titles for both the boys and the girls. You don't keep track of stats, do you?

Dusty LeBeaux:
No, I didn't. I think the kids, the players never got to look in the scorebook to see how many points they had either. So that's not important, and important is we all won. So none them to got to know. Their parents probably told them later, but they never got to stand there or come the next year and ask how many points they. They all knew that, so they never did that. Mine was always, we did together.

Craig Mattick:
You were quoted right before retirement saying, "It's been great working throughout the years with all of the young ladies and young men. I just kind of helped guide them in the right direction." What did you mean by that, in the right direction?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, they play the game and I just gave them a direction to go. And through that, it was life lessons too, being able to talk with them and see what's wrong and help them at home. If there were different things come up, I would try my best to help them to get out of that bad situation or that bad feeling or always I said I laughed about them. That was my thing is to always, I seen they were sad and I would go and talk and I got them to laugh, to say something, to make them have a smile on their face. And when I seen that done, I think I helped them.

Craig Mattick:
You're in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. You were inducted about nine years ago. What does that mean for you, Dusty?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Again, it's good, but again, I give all those young men and women that credit. That's what they gave me. They gave me that.

Craig Mattick:
You're recently retired as the athletic director at Pine Ridge. So what's keeping you busy today?

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well, Churchville is good. The retirement and stuff, I don't get as much money as when I was working. But you know all that other stress, pressure, all that other stuff out, that world is not there no more. I'm active. I rodeo in the summer. Well, matter of fact, I just got done taking care of my horse out there and I like riding him.

Craig Mattick:
I don't want you riding bulls though right now, Dusty, like you did.

Dusty LeBeaux:
Well that's over like basketball. That is a part of my life that is over and enjoyed it while it was there. And now just in summer I go to rodeos. I rope my team rope and I enjoy that. I won in that too. And it's like the bull ride, if I didn't win, I wouldn't be doing that. But I enjoy it.

Craig Mattick:
I've got one more for you, Dusty. If you had every athlete you coached at Red Cloud, at Little Wound, at Pine Ridge, the boys and the girls, and there are hundreds of them I'm assuming. If you had every athlete that you coached, all together in one room, and they're standing and looking at you and you got a microphone, what are you going to tell all of those athletes today?

Dusty LeBeaux:
I would probably say, "Thank you. Thank you for these years. I enjoyed every minute of it with you." That I love them all, just like my own kids.

Craig Mattick:
If you like what you're hearing, please give us a five-star review wherever you get your podcasts. Programs such as this are only possible through the continued support of our listeners like you. For South Dakota Public Broadcasting, I'm Craig Mattick. Join us again on the next episode of In Play.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.