WORTHINGTON - When Mike Fury first met Rosalie Hayenga, she was an eighth-grader.

“She probably played more Worthington Community College summer league basketball games than anybody in the world. And then after her game was over, she would just hang around. There were always teams that would be missing a player or two. So she’d play two or three more games after that as a sub,” Fury remembered this week.

Today, the former Worthington High School and Worthington Community College basketball standout Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka - the same girl who grew up with the nickname, “Moz” while starring for the local high school team - is serving out her 10th season as Fury’s assistant coach for the very successful Minnesota West Community and Technical College Lady Jays basketball program.

For the first 23 years of his storied 33-year career as head coach of the Jays, Fury operated without an assistant. To hear Fury tell it today, he didn’t know what he was missing.

“The old saying is you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And I didn’t know what I didn’t have until she got here,” he said.

It was under Fury’s leadership that in 1992 Hayenga, the school’s all-time assist leader and third all-time leading scorer, propelled the Lady Jays to a 1992 state community college championship. Besides earning all-state and all-region honors, she was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) National Player of the Year in 1992. Fury nominated her for that award and later accompanied Hayenga to Los Angeles with her family, and her high school coach Don Kuiper.

Hayenga completed her playing days at Moorhead State University. She served as assistant basketball coach and women’s softball coach and instructor in the University of Minnesota-Crookston sport and recreation management program. She was an assistant basketball coach at Moorhead State. At Minnesota West, she also serves as head women’s softball coach and women’s athletic director, and as an instructor.

“I’m thrilled (to be back at West),” Hayenga said Tuesday. “At first it was a little bit of an adjustment coming back from Division II, but I’ve been able to watch my nieces and nephews grow up and see my family. Just being back at the school and the community where I grew up, and coaching with Mike, it’s all worked out really well for me.”

And for Fury. The longtime Jays mentor says Hayenga-Hostikka’s knowledge of the game, her insight into game situations, and her preparation have been extremely beneficial to him and for the college. Her help in recruiting provides potential players with something more to think about. “She’s been through the community college league, so she has great knowledge on what kind of players they can be,” Fury says.

Hayenga-Hostikka agrees. “I think I can relate to some of the recruits. And for those that want to go on, I have done that and coached there, too.”

It would be unfair to suggest that Hayenga-Hostikka has been the only one of the two to have undergone a coaching adjustment period. Fury, too, had to get used to having an assistant. When you’ve been coaching alone for 23 years, that’s bound to happen.

But today, theirs is an easy partnership borne from a seed that began even before “Moz” began her stellar high school career. They’ve successfully graduated from their coach-player relationship and now are (more or less) on the same page as coaches.

Not perfectly, mind you. Fury likes man-to-man defenses. Moz leans a little more to zone. She remembers, she says, bringing the basketball up court as a point guard and having always to know what kind of defense opponents are in. She thinks it’s a good idea to mix it up once in a while.

“I’ve begged for 10 years and I think we’ve done it for a total of 10 minutes,” she laughs.

Fury tweaks her in return. They kid each other when the Lady Jays’ offense or defense has a sub-par night. If the offense only scores 51 points, for instance (which is not likely to happen this year with the Jays’ exceptional scoring depth), they accuse the other of being in charge of the offense.

But both coaches are big fans of an up-tempo, aggressive style of basketball. That’s the way Moz played, and that’s the way Fury likes to play. And Fury - with tongue in cheek - says he’s always got to be aware of becoming too animated on the court with Moz around.

“Her goal,” he says, smiling, “is to have me get two technicals so she can take over.”