Still Coaching after 800 Wins

Celebrating Rudy Carey’s 800th career win.

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Rudy Carey (B.A., ’74) has spent 42 years coaching basketball and inspiring young men to be successful, not only on the court but in life. His own success has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Carey coaching his East High School team vs. Fossil Ridge. Photo by Matt Mathewes/

Carey played basketball at Denver’s East High School in the late 1960s, where he received All-City and All-State honors. He then played for the Rams from 1970 to 1974 and was named All-Conference his senior year. His career began at Western State College in Gunnison, coaching the junior varsity. Next, he served as assistant coach at George Washington High School in Denver for two years, followed by sixteen years as head coach at Manual High School. Since 1992, he has been head coach at East High School.

During his storied career, he has coached teams to nine state championships—three at Manual and six at East—a feat accomplished by only one other Colorado coach. Twenty of his players were named First Team All-Colorado, and six were Player of the Year. Carey received Colorado Coach of the Year honors seven times. This past December, Carey reached another a milestone that only one other Colorado high school boys’ basketball coach has reached—800 career wins. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who took PE from Carey at Manual, declared this past February 16 “Rudy Carey Day in the Mile High City.”

Since 2012, Carey’s son David has served as head varsity assistant coach at East. David said of coaching with his father: “It is a great thing. I thought I had learned everything I could from him while growing up, but I am still learning. I get new insights all the time.”

Some view Carey’s game-day coaching style as “animated.” Carey responds by saying “what they call ‘animated’ I call ‘passionate.’” David says his dad’s style “definitely involves passion, but it also involves love, desire, focus, affirmation, and being totally present.” He goes on to explain that he attributes his father’s success to that passion, which makes the assistant coaches and team “more creative, more focused. It makes us scientists—we see the details.” He adds that his father’s passion also is a result of being a black man and coach in a state that is predominately white; his father has dealt with hurdles that others do not face nor perhaps even see.

When asked about his success, Carey is quick to credit others. He says, “the village is the biggest reason for our success. East High has great teachers and administration as well as great families.”

As proud as he is of the wins, Carey takes even more pride in his teams’ “100% graduation rate.” He explains that many of his players have gone on to professional careers in medicine, law, and other fields. One former player, John-Blair “JB” Bickerstaff, is assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On May 31, Carey retired as a PE teacher after “40 and ¾ years.” He will continue coaching basketball at East, however. After last season, he is nearing 820 wins. One can only imagine what new records this legendary coach may set.