A dedication to family is what caused Mortensen to leave a successful 19-year career.
"When my oldest daughter played her last game, I got to see it and I
realized how few games of hers I got to watch," he said. "I didn't want to miss watching the rest of my daughters play."
Soon after he quit, there were some coaching changes in the girls basketball program. In the interim period, Mortensen didn't want to have the girls in the program to suffer through the inconsistencies constant coaching changes, and felt he could offer the stability the team needed.
It was like having his cake and eating it too.
Mortensen was able to continue coaching, and at the same time, watch and
mentor his three remaining daughters through their basketball careers.
It's in his role as a girls basketball coach that he was named the Western Slope Conference (WSC) Class 4A Coach of the Year.
He admits it wasn't an easy transition from boys to girls basketball, He had to retool many of his coaching techniques to fit the gender difference.
"It took some getting used to, switching from boys to girls. I had to tone
down my verbal intensity with the girls, and I had to draw a road map for
the girls in how they should play," Mortensen said. "With boys, you have to
stop them from going off on their own tangent, with the girls, it has been more of an evolution."
Mortensen had to start at the basics and build from there to create a sound system. The method worked for the coach, and he and his team have the record to prove it.
This season's 20-4 season record was good enough to spur the Lady 'Dog to the second round of the state Class 4A tournament, and earn Mortensen the honor of WSC Coach of the Year, though he does not see the honor as a mark of his own success.
"The award means that you have a successful program, that you have kids that
are willing to work. So, more than it being an individual acknowledgment, it's a team honor," Mortensen said.
In his six years as the head girls basketball coach, Mortensen has worked to his utmost to maintain his coaching integrity, not letting the fact that his daughters were also his players become an issue.
"All fathers want their children to not make mistakes, so my daughters' margin of error may have been less than the other players," Mortensen said. "I hope that I don't favor my daughters out there, because I care for all the girls on the team, and hope they have found something in basketball that will help in their personal lives."
Mortensen didn't always want to remain a high school coach. At one time, he aspired to ascend in the ranks of a college program, but he's found that it doesn't matter were you coach, as long as you're happy with what you're doing.
"I have found success at Moffat County, worked in a well-run school district, and have enjoyed both aspects of my career, coaching and teaching," he said.
Mortensen teaches physical education at the high school.