The Tussey brand of basketball is entering the Pride of Iowa Conference next winter.
In recent school board actions, longtime Orient-Macksburg coach Steve Tussey was approved in Lenox to succeed Karl Peterson as co-coach of the Lenox boys basketball team; and Tussey’s son, Thad, was approved as head boys basketball coach at East Union.
At East Union, Thad Tussey succeeds Craig Ditzler as head coach. Mark Weis, East Union High School principal, said non-faculty members on the coaching staff do not automatically have their contracts renewed each year, pending interest by teaching staff in the position.
Thad Tussey joins the staff as at-risk coordinator and was interested in coaching basketball. He played at O-M for his father, played at Southwestern Community College for coach Mike Holmes, and later served as assistant coach at SWCC after attending Iowa State and being a student manager for men’s basketball.
Thad Tussey received his degree in human services and psychology from Buena Vista University, and has been a counselor at Woodward Academy this school year. He assisted his father when Steve took over the Southwestern Community College women’s basketball team at mid-season after the resignation of Brett Gilcrist.
“I wanted to work my way back into basketball when the timing was right,” Thad said.
He said he recalled multiple substate appearances by East Union in the early 2000s under coach Shane Paben, and would like to build the Eagles program back into an annual contender.
In doing so, he’ll be going up against his father, as Steve jumps back into the high school coaching realm with Cox at Lenox after Peterson retired from high school coaching.
There are intertwined story lines there as well. Cox played and coached at SWCC. Steve attended SWCC after high school, and both his mother (Karen) and wife (Terri) have been employed there.
In fact, Steve recalls sharing classroom time at SWCC with Allen Dukes, the highly successful football coach at Lenox.
“Coach Dukes was at SWCC the same time I was,” Steve said. “I have a lot of respect for their athletes and tradition, and coach Dukes has been a big part of that. We (O-M) played Lenox most years I was there, and next year we open the season with them. It will be different to be on the other side.”
It will also be different to shake hands with his son as the opposing coach when Lenox and East Union hook up in Pride of Iowa Conference play.
“The chess match is already starting!” Steve said.
So where will Steve’s parents, and Thad’s grandparents — Jim and Karen — sit during that game, not to mention Terri?
“I know mom was asking people about that,” Thad said. “I told her the best spot would be right behind the scorer’s table, between both benches.”
Steve accumulated a high school coaching record of 317-202, including 163-69 in his years at O-M. He led Woodbine to the state tournament two years in a row — 1995 and 1996. He was recognized by the Iowa High School Athletic Association as a member of the 300 Win Club in 2011.
Steve remains a guidance counselor at Orient-Macksburg. He and Cox have already met to discuss their respective roles as co-coaches. This isn’t the first time either of them has coached in that scenario.
“At Woodbine there were three of us coaching football as tri-coaches when our head coach left in early August one year,” Tussey said. “It’s not a matter of complete control for either of us. Jesse is knowledgeable about the game. We’ve already met a couple of times, and we’re still working on all of that. I told him, we need to go over every scenario and have a plan ahead of time, before those things come up. I think we’re pretty close on most things.”
Cox said working as a co-coach with Peterson, his own high school coach, was easy. He views Tussey as “a great resource” for basketball and the Lenox program, as well as a partner on the bench.
“Karl and I found that for the most part, we were thinking on the same path, anyway,” Cox said. “Each game is different. We’d hand off to each other in the timeouts, we each had our strengths. We knew Steve was out there, and that he’d be good for our program. We have an opportunity for some winning seasons here in the next few years.”
And when it comes to playing Orient-Macksburg and East Union, those seasons will have some interesting family dynamics in play.