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Howlett, only soccer coach Lander boys ever had, hangs it up

Jun 9, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Dan Howlett has created a big soccer coaching legacy at Lander Valley High School after holding the boys position for the past 29 years.

The end came for Howlett after the Class 3-A boys state title game two weeks ago in Jackson.

Lander dropped a 2-0 decision to Jackson for the championship.

It was the first time Howlett had advance to the title match in his long career.

Howlett started coaching in Lander for the 1988 season.

"I have kind of grown into it," Howlett said.

The coach determined early on that this season would be his last.

"As I told my wife, we decided early in the season. It was time to tell them the first week."

Two years ago, former Riverton High School girls soccer coach Rick Bergstedt retired.

Howlett and Bergstedt both started their respective programs.

Cheyenne Central boys coach Tim Denisson now has title of being the only coach left from the 1988 season.

In the Class 4-A state tournament last month in Rock Springs, Denisson and his players edged the Riverton Wolverines 3-2.

Howlett didn't think about the 30-year mark as a target.

"I never had that thought," Howlett said. "I would assume that I would coach through the end of my teaching career."

He did better than that. Howlett retired from teaching at Lander Valley High School three years ago.

"I knew that I had always wanted to coach," Howlett said. "I was able to coach three years longer than I taught."

Back in March, Howlett broke the news about his retirement to the team.

"I let them know that it was over, because we wanted to have a great year," Howlett said. "The seniors really produced well. They led the team well."

Wrestling, football background

The coach never played high school soccer back in Michigan. He was a wrestler and football player. He is still a big time Michigan State basketball fan.

"I can understand the wins and losses a little easier," Howlett said. "The best part about it is our kids are so well behaved, especially in the last five years, but always for the most part."

Howlett coached a number indoor teams to prepare the Tigers for the spring season.

"In about 70 teams that I have coached, and all the teams that I have played on, this is a wonderful group of players to go out with," Howlett said. "They are just great leaders. We get phone calls and e-mails from people asking us to come back," Howlett said.

Being retired hasn't sunk in yet for Howlett.

"It's going to be odd not being on the sideline," he said.

The search for the Lander Valley High School head soccer coaching position is ongoing.

Memories

Howlett remembers "some phenomenal goals" through the years.

In one match, a Cody all-state player knocked it at Lander's all-state goalie, Dan Watkins.

Watkins blocked the shot, picked it up and kicked it to more future Lander all-state players. All four handled the ball, and the Tigers scored the game winner.

"In a nine-second period, we went from losing the conference to winning it," Howlett said. "That was one of the most impressive goals, because four all-state players touched the soccer ball."

Player reactions

Howlett said the Lander-Riverton match is a good, friendly rivalry.

Members of the Lander team were determined to send Howlett home a winner in his last match vs. the Wolverines.

Behind three goals from Kyle Leemon, the Tigers defeated Riverton 4-2.

"We just wanted to win this one for coach Howlett," Leemon said.

To the future

Howlett's wife, Melanie, is a high school art teacher.

Dan Howlett is an avid golfer.

He often goes out to the Lander course with Lander Valley High School golf coach Terry Berg.

Howlett wants to spend his winters in Las Vegas so he can play golf year-round.

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