Lyle “Dusty” LeBeaux coached two state championship basketball teams. But his greatest achievements — in his words and from those who know him well — come from spending time with the youth of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and helping them grow as young men and women.
LeBeaux has one more game before he retires as head coach of the Pine Ridge Thorpes. They play Saturday in the Class A state boys basketball tournament in Sioux Falls.
His soft-spoken approach to coaching and life sums up his intention to call it a coaching career after this season. There was little fanfare. It was and still is all about the kids.
“I don't keep track of figures. You could ask me what my record is and I don't know. It is something that I don't dwell on, I just try to do a good job,” LeBeaux said after a tough 70-69 double overtime loss to Tea Area in the state quarterfinals.
LeBeaux is completing his 26th season of coaching — all on the reservation. He coached the Red Cloud boys to the 1995 title and the Pine Ridge girls to the title in 2009. He also coached the Little Wound boys for a few years, taking them to the state tournament as well. His overall coaching record is 563-178.
“It's been great with all of the young ladies and young men that I have worked with throughout the years,” LeBeaux said. “They made this for me; I just kind of helped guide them in the right direction.
"They made this career, whatever it is, possible for me," he said. "They all know that I love them all and the respect that I have for the young people that played for me on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I need to thank all of them for this career that I have.”
Pine Ridge High School principal Marc Wess said the simplest way to describe LeBeaux is that he is a leader, on and off the court.
“The kids gravitate to him and they love to work hard for him. He's just a good person,” Wess said. “He just gets the kids to work really hard and give it all that they have. You saw that tonight (Thursday). They went to the very end. That's what he gets out of them. That's what he does.”
LeBeaux has had the distinction of coaching all eight of his children — Beau, Jerome, Lyle, Devon, Danielle, Echo, Feather and Laney — and all have played in the state tournament. The last two years he has coached and taken his grandson — Jeff LeBeau — to state as well.
LeBeau, who led the Thorpes this season in scoring and rebounding, said his grandfather inspires them to do well.
“He got the best out of me,” LeBeau said. “I have a broken foot and he just told me to roll it up and I did. I tried my best. He got the best out of all of us. We played as hard as we could.”
LeBeaux's nephew, Casey Means, has been an assistant coach for the Thorpes the last five seasons and said his uncle is a father figure to his players and coaches. When you play for LeBeaux, it's all about family and togetherness.
“He shows these young guys that it is not about basketball, it's about life,” Means said. “He still helps his ex-players, he helps us coaches, things we struggle with. The kids, he's always been there. If they ever need anything, he's right there. His words, everything about him is awesome.”
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Means played for Pine Ridge when LeBeaux was at Red Cloud. He said he made up for not playing for his uncle by being one of his assistant coaches.
“I learned so much from him, as a person, as an adult, as a man,” Means said. “He's taught me everything.”
LeBeau said he knew at a young age that he would end up playing for his grandfather. It truly was a family tradition.
“I feel good to say that I was one of his grand kids who got to play for him,” LeBeau said.
The family is too large, though, for LeBeaux to keep coaching his grand kids — he has 29 more who are playing basketball.
“I can't wait around for all of them,” he said with a smile. “It was fun coaching them all.”
LeBeaux plans to stay involved with Pine Ridge basketball, but in an unofficial capacity. He'll also stay as the high school activities director.
“I'll help them as much as I can,” he said. “I'm not sure I want to go through something like this (heartbreaking losses), all stressed out. That will be a little more relaxing.”
Wess said he hopes that LeBeaux stays active with the program, youth and the community.
“He's a valuable asset to our school and our community,” Wess said.
In the meantime, the Thorpes continued in the tournament in the consolation round on Friday and Saturday. Pine Ridge lost Friday to Sioux Valley and will play Cheyenne-Eagle Butte on Saturday.
Despite the disappointment of not playing for the title, there's still one game left to be played, one game left to coach.
“He didn't want to go out like this, but he is still happy that they fought to the end,” Means said. “He taught them to never give up, no matter what you are playing against, not even if it is the five on the court, the people in the stands.”