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Panthers name new basketball coach

Chase Kistler Chase Kistler Courtesy photo

Powell High School didn’t have to search far to find its next varsity boys’ basketball coach.

Current physical education teacher and former Panthers freshman boys basketball coach Chase Kistler has been chosen to replace Mike Heny as head coach of Powell’s varsity team. It will be Kistler’s first time as a varsity head coach.

Powell High School athletic director Tim Wormald said Kistler, who also leads an early morning weight training class, is a coach with an impressive athletic background who already has an established rapport with many PHS students.

“I think he’ll go a good job. He really relates well with the kids; the kids respect him,” Wormald said.

Wormald said the high school didn’t make it a point to hire local but felt Kistler proved himself to be the best fit.

“(Being local) wasn’t important,” Wormald said. “I was going to look for the best candidate.”

Kistler, who played basketball through high school and football through college, said he is excited to take over the program and work with Powell students.

“We have a great group of kids in the high school right now and down the road I see some kids that are willing to work and have fun,” he said.

Wormald said Kistler’s dedication to development is one quality that set him apart from other applicants.

“We wanted to make sure that they are interested in growing young men,” Wormald said. “I’ve seen him get kids to work in the weight room or on the field. I‘ve seen him work with those kids to help them meet their potential.”

Wormald said the high school was looking for someone with more than just extensive on-the-court knowledge.

“It wasn’t a lot of x’s and o’s as much as it was someone with good character that’s going to bring out good qualities in the kids as well,” he said.

Kistler, 31, came into the interview with a plan for the program that impressed Wormald.

“He’s got a pretty clear vision for where he wanted to see the program go,” Wormald said. “He’s really involved in the physical fitness aspect of it, trying to get kids in the weight room and bring about more physicality to their play. They’re not getting beat because of their lack of conditioning.”

Kistler will take over a Panthers team that lost the Class 3A state title game by two points, and has steadily improved in recent years.

“I know that the pressure is there. The kids know the pressure is there,” Kistler said. “It’s always better to have those high expectations and try to meet those high expectations.

“We know we got some big shoes to fill.”

Kistler will try to continue Powell’s success with a defense-first approach.

“Defense is always first and foremost,” Kistler said. “Defense wins championships, I’ve always believed in that.”

In theory, an increased focus on defense will make things easier for the Panthers’ offense.

“It may be simple but if you can hold their team to 10 points you only have to score 11 to win the game,” he said.

Kistler said he will have to wait until he has fully evaluated the roster before he can decide his team’s offensive approach.

“I haven’t pinpointed the type of offense,” he said. “I need to see what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

An exhibition game against Burlington today (Tuesday) and scrimmages against Cody throughout the summer will help Kistler determine where his offensive weapons are. He said he’s worked with all types of offenses, from teams heavy with low-post players to teams that played five guards and spread the floor.

Kistler said his familiarity with students should benefit him as a coach.

“I’ve been around these kids since they’ve been (at) the high school,” he said. “I see them in the classroom (and) I see them in the weight room. I’m already kind of familiar with the talent they have.”

Kistler coached the Panthers’ freshman boys his first three years at PHS, but did not coach last year due to schedule conflicts.

After graduating from Sheridan High School in 2001, Kistler attended Black HIlls State for three years before transferring to University of Wyoming to finish his degree in education.

Kistler was a volunteer assistant coach for the Sheridan varsity girls’ basketball team while he was completing his student-teaching.

Heny was terminated from his position on May 14, though reasons for his termination are still unclear. Heny said he was asked to resign, but since he felt he had done nothing wrong he left his coaching fate up to the Park County School District No. 1 board of trustees, who ousted him with a unanimous 6-0 vote.

Dee Heny, Mike’s mother, abstained from voting. Dee resigned from her position on the school board June 11.

Kistler and Mike Heny roam the same sidelines as assistant football coaches for the Powell Panthers. Kistler said they discussed the basketball situation so that neither the football or basketball programs would be affected.

“My thought and his thought too was we need to have good communication because we do coach together,” Kistler said. “It was one of those things where we said ‘Let’s just clear the air.’ No hard feelings on either side. He’s looking for the best for the kids he had coached.”

Kistler was one of two final candidates interviewed for the job. The other applicant was not from Powell, Wormald said.

Kistler will start his fifth year at PHS this fall.

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