Coach Craig Mortensen announced his retirement Wednesday from the Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball team. Mortensen said there wasn’t one overriding reason why he is retiring, other than it was “just time” after more than 30 years coaching both the boys and girls hoops teams.

Photo by Ben Bulkeley

Coach Craig Mortensen announced his retirement Wednesday from the Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball team. Mortensen said there wasn’t one overriding reason why he is retiring, other than it was “just time” after more than 30 years coaching both the boys and girls hoops teams.

MCHS hoops coach announces retirement

MCHS coaching mainstay Craig Mortensen calls it a career


Craig Mortensen’s résumé at Moffat County High School spans almost four decades, two programs and more than 500 wins, a more than successful career by any barometer.

On Wednesday, the veteran basketball coach called it a career.

Mortensen, who has been a head MCHS basketball coach since 1976, announced that the 2009-10 season was his last. He is retiring.


Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball coach Craig Mortensen goes over the game plan during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the state playoff opener Feb. 23 against John F. Kennedy High School. Mortensen announced Wednesday that he will retire as MCHS girls varsity basketball coach after more than 15 years as head coach. Mortensen’s MCHS career spanned more than 30 years and 500 wins.

“It was just time,” he said. “There are no negatives, nothing has changed in my health or with my family. Everything is the same; I just felt that it was time.”

Mortensen’s accomplishments at MCHS include 514 wins, 17 league titles, three Sweet 16s, two Great Eights and one Final Four appearance.

He became the MCHS boys varsity basketball coach in 1976 after coaching McClave High School for two seasons.

At the reigns of the MCHS boys squad, Mortensen racked up 263 wins against 135 losses.

In 1995, Mortensen made the switch to the girls program, where he won games at a .711 clip in 15 years. With the girls varsity team, Mortensen went 251-102.

This past season, the girls varsity basketball team went 12-13 and was eliminated in the second round of the state tournament by Centaurus High School.

Moffat County High School athletic director Richard Wildenhaus said he learned about Mortensen’s decision Wednesday morning.

“It took me a couple of hours to take it all in,” Wildenhaus said. “But we’ll move on and continue to develop the program where he left off.

“It feels a little weird. He’ll still definitely be around, but not as head coach.”

The process for finding a new coach will start immediately, Wildenhaus said.

Wildenhaus only worked alongside Mortensen this past season, but the experience was invaluable, he said.

“His wisdom is contagious,” Wildenhaus said. “It trickles down through the program.”

Wildenhaus said Mortensen may be retiring but that his accomplishments won’t be forgotten.

“He’s a legend, not just here in Moffat County, but in the entire state,” he said.

“He’s been recognized by the state for his 500 wins and inevitably, the hall of fame. I consider myself lucky to have been able to work with someone of his caliber.”

This winter, Mortensen will find himself on the sidelines — as a fan — for the first time in a long time, he said.

“It’s been a lifestyle,” he said. “I started playing organized ball in middle school and haven’t been away since.

“This will be the first winter I haven’t coached or played in long time.”

But whether he is coaching or in the stands, Mortensen said one thing won’t change.

“I will continue to be their biggest fan,” he said. “I will always be their loudest cheerleader. I’ll never stop rooting for them.”

Mortensen thanked players, assistant coaches, the school district, parents and critics, who “you could always learn from,” during an interview Wednesday.

But one of the most important groups during his time with the program were the fans, Mortensen said.

“There has always been a lot of support from the community,” he said. “This truly is a great, great place. I learned early on that this is a good place.”

Mortensen said the Craig community separated itself from other schools the team visited.

“Sometimes, when we go to a city school, there would only be 20 or 30 people in the stands,” he said. “That was because those places don’t have a community, like we have here. Our community has always turned out to support our kids.”

Leaving coaching was a tough decision, Mortensen said.

“I think there is some sadness,” he said. “It was a difficult decision. I still love the game, and I still love the kids. It’s not easy for me.

“But I don’t think I have any regrets.”

Whoever inherits the MCHS girls basketball team will coach not only a good basketball team, but a likable group, Mortensen said.

“This is a fun group to work with and be around,” he said. “There are a lot of good girls in this group.

“It will be a change. But I know they will continue to find success.”

If there is one thing Mort-

ensen hopes his players take away from their time with him, it’s that a solid work ethic can carry a team.

“Anything worthwhile takes effort,” he said. “You always have to be able to deal with the ups and downs.

“Sports, like anything else in life, has its positives and negatives. You just can’t get too high or too low, but you can always keep working.”


aPerspective 6 years, 11 months ago

happy trails mort!

glad to see that they can finally get the dinosaurs off the court and some room for fresh blood in both programs....i don't think there will be alot of tears for his leaving!


opie_11 6 years, 11 months ago

actually a lot of tears fell today when the girls who go out for MCHS basketball found out that their head coach was resigning, Mort is a good coach and he has done a lot for our program. He is also a great person. I will personally miss him...and a lot of other players and people will too.


justthefacts 6 years, 11 months ago

Great News!!!

Fact: More kids were discouraged and berated by this individual, than were ever helped.

Fact: Moffat County would have had several state titles under other coaches, with the talent given to this man by the community,.

Fact: Coaching is tough, treating kids with respect is not.


Anitadunnce 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow. I can say only that teaching and coaching are tough jobs, not so much because of the students, but because of some of the parents who are clueless, ignorant, fearful of education and educators, and therefore rude. A couple of these comments seem to bear that out. I imagine that right now, the Coach wishes that he had expended his life energy in a place that appreciated him more and paid him considerably better.... and, oh yes, with nicer weather!

On a similar note, Craig also is losing its high school chorus teacher... He stayed two years, which is a year longer than some music teachers in the past. Keep it up, folks: continue the rude, belittling comments, and the nasty armchair criticism and Monday morning quarter-backing about your coaches and teachers, and the rest of us will only wonder how long we can keep the next music teacher... that is, if Schnellinger can find another teacher who will agree to work for him.


justthefacts 6 years, 11 months ago


Fact: You were doing good up to the last sentence.

Would you like to try again?

A little hypocrisy tends to water down the message.

Just the facts and sometimes more.


Anitadunnce 6 years, 11 months ago


I think I have presented the facts, not all the facts perhaps, but just the facts. Your statements on these threads always seem well written, so I assume you know full well the definition of "hypocrisy". What I don't know is what you mean by using the word in this context.

Do you disagree a) that it will be tough to get another new teacher to move to Craig; or b) that Schnellinger is terrible for students, parents, and teachers to work with, and if a new music teacher has a heads-up about that problem, he/she will opt not to move here?

Please clarify. Until you do, I have no idea what your last statement means..... i.e. that my alleged hypocrisy (which is what?) waters down the message (which is watered down how?)


whatnow13 6 years, 11 months ago

This is a bittersweet thing for Craig and MCHS. First of all most people hated him and would say that he wasted an unbeiveable amount of talent! That is indeed true because he never won a state championship but a few years ago he got really close. Second some people would say that he was a great coach and nice to their daughter! Well if you didn't play for him then you don't really know what he was like. Yes he did make mistakes,but who doesn't? and yes he treated most of his teams unfairly and he had his favorites, but this is a guy who is extremely nice and caring off the court and that is what matters most, he could be really mean a few hours a day while coaching or at a game but as soon as he left the gym he was the nicest guy out their. And to all the parents out there just why do you always have to put your word in and ruin everything? Well I hope you are happy parents, hope you enjoy the new coach and don't go complaining about this new person when your daughter doesn't play


bballrocks 6 years, 11 months ago

Just to inform the parents and community who is saying all of this, Mort was a great coach. He led us (a small school threatening to be 3a) to play a good game against Centaurus (a huge school threatening to be 5a). With this information; whoever "Just the Facts" is needs to re-check their so called facts. The girls on the MCHS basketball team look up to Mort as a coach and as a person. He yelled at me all the time but if he wouldn't have, I would not respect him as much as I do. Did you read the article? This article is about him and he's saying what great girls we are! Everything he did revolved around us. Making us better young ladies on and off the court. Every practice he would say that we have a great community and great people to support us. Wow you guys are really supportful. Mort is a great coach and you should be ashamed of yourselves for the way you're talking about him. We played our hearts out for him and it's too bad you never got the chance to be coached by such a successful man. You are lucky if you know Mort but even luckier if you were able to play for him.


justthefacts 6 years, 11 months ago

Fact: Most of the girls that Mort inherited had undefeated 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years.

Fact: Most of their wins were by 30 points or more.

Fact: Mort also started with those classes having 10-12 basketball players.

Fact: By the time those players were seniors only two or three of those players remained.

Fact: Most good high school teams have 4 -5 students that are senior starters.

Fact: Most kids left not because they could not play the game. They left from the abuse and torment created by the coach. They chose to have happy memories of high school.

Fact: Been There!!! Bballrocks.


Anitadunnce 6 years, 11 months ago

JTF: My, a little fellow like you sounds like such a big, tough man when you are attacking a high school student. I asked you at 9am today to clarify for me your reference to my alleged "hypocrisy" in a previous comment, but I have no answer from you. You're not so tough when you have to go nose to nose with an adult, are you? Typical behavioral traits of an abuser.

Bballrocks: I am so glad that you stepped forward to write some sincere and supportive words about your coach. It is comments like yours that make it all worthwhile for a teacher and coach. I don't even know Coach Mortenson, but I can imagine that he appreciates your words. Thank you.

The attack on the coach by Justthefacts is typical of what most over at the high school have to put up with, and the most unfortunate part is that Justthefacts does not even recognize his own abusive traits. It is unfortunate, because he sounds miserable.


calvinhobbs 6 years, 11 months ago

Here are some FACTS FACT- CMS plays all schools smaller than them except maybe Steamboat, They should win, and NO not all CMS team are undefeated. FACT-MCHS is one of the smallest 3A schools FACT-When MCHS makes it to the playoffs and goes to the front range they are playing schools up to 1,000 students bigger. FACT-When MCHS does play these school, they also are competing against kids that live out of district and travel to that school JUST for basketball. Broomfield last year, of 12 varsity players, 6 were out of district. FACT-This man has given his time to these kids for 34 years, summers, vacations, after school. FACT-This has been done with a 3 person staff, most schools have 5-6 coaches per program FACT- My daughter played 4 years for Mort FACT-She did not start all the time FACT-I did not always agree with him FACT-He is demanding FACT- He knows basketball FACT-HE CARES ABOUT KIDS


Neal Harkner 6 years, 11 months ago

Fact - Gutless pansies attack others on internet forums anonymously.


Andrea Camp 6 years, 11 months ago

I have been reading the comments being posted about Coach Mortensen on the internet and I do not appreciate what people are saying about him. He is a great coach and a great man. Those people who are talking bad about him are truly making asses out of themselves. It especially makes me mad that they won’t even put a name at the bottom of their nasty remarks, let’s grow up. If you are man enough to say it, you should be man enough to put your name at the bottom! I don’t care if people don’t like Mort, but we basketball girls look up to him. He was the best thing that could’ve happened to our basketball program. He is respected by us basketball girls and he has led us to great places. He was a tough coach which is why we do what we do. He pushed us to the max to make us better, and it actually worked!  He may have yelled but what coach doesn’t? If we are going to get mad about our children getting yelled at, then we should complain about every coach at MCHS. I think the parents need to let their daughters toughen up. We’re high school girls. We don’t need our mommies to stick up for us anymore. If you can’t take a coach yelling at you then DO NOT, try out for high school sports until you can handle your emotions. Parents have ruined a lot of good things in our sports programs. They need to back off the coaches and let them do their job! I know a lot of us will miss Mort, and that a lot of us did shed tears because he was leaving and we don’t appreciate you insulting him. This only shows that you are going to complain about any coach we get! Let’s see how long this coach lasts before you disrespect him too. Mort had many great accomplishments and helped in making us girls great young ladies on and off the court. He always told us what a supportive and great community we had and those who are making rude comments on the internet aren’t showing that very well. Parents I hope you are happy! Now grow up and stay out of the high school drama, you already went to high school, let us enjoy our time there without your help!

Adrie Camp

lihtiu10 6 years, 11 months ago

Well, here we go again as the community of craig not understanding that everyone has an opinion. Their opinion, right or wrong. It may differ from your opinion; however, do not speak back harshly. Just speak your opinion! Coach Mortensen has been a figure in our community for 30 plus years, good or bad, he coached many kids. I personally do believe he needs to resign. I could be like justthefacts and list reasons, personally based reasons; however, I will not. Anitadunnce, it is amazing how you will tell justthefacts they can not speak against Coach Mortensen; however, you can speak against Mr. Schnellinger. Who says you can control others opinions! Adrie great you speak your name; however, you are young and have only had to deal with Coach Mortensen for what 2 years. You speak very nicely and your opinion is stated clearly and from your heart. However, you also, need to understand others who are speaking on this forum are speaking from different angles and experiences than you. Everyone needs to say what they want and the others need to maybe sit back and ponder these opinions as valid or not. I do not see any value in attacking someone regarding their opinion on whether Coach Mortensen resigns or continues. You may dispute it with your own experiences; however, your experience could be completely different than the experience the other blogger had with Coach Mortensen. So as citizens of Craig, could we all allow others to speak good or bad and leave it at that. The bottom line is Coach Mortensen has decided, on his own, to not continue to coach basketball for the teams of Moffat County. Good, bad, or other, that is the final decision. We do have great student players and we always hope our coaches will teach them to the best of the players and coaches abilities. That is what is best for our Moffat County teams, maybe not for each individual player. Parents support your child; however, let them play to their ability.


whatnow13 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree with lihtiu10, Adrie you have only played for Mort two years at best! the last two years is when most people who played for him hated him more than before! I am not attacking you, your note was truely from the heart, but we are all older than you and have played for him for four years, so we know a bit more! But I wish you the best of luck with your new coach

JTF - you need to get your facts right!

Calvin - I agree with you about cms basketball Steamboat is the only other 4A school that that level plays against! and it is unfair that east slope teams have no limitations on where they can go to school at, if only Craig had more options! not even going to go there!

and to all the parents that dislike Mort, Understand that your daughter is in high school and liking the coach is only a SMALL part of the puzzle!!! Let them be and stay out of all the drama! Parents these days think that if they take to the coaches or other people of power that they will get people fired!! Guess what your voice does NOTHING! and people of higher power dread talking to parents!


Anitadunnce 6 years, 11 months ago

whatnow13, you hit the nail right on its little ol' head with your following comment: " Parents these days think that if they take to the coaches or other people of power that they will get people fired!! Guess what your voice does nothing! and people of higher power dread talking to parents!" You are incorrect, however, because when parents are that out of line, and the "people in power" tremble with fear and exhibit spinelessness, in fact there are repercussions for coaches and teachers. It is wrong, but it happens.

You would be shocked.... shocked.... shocked.... at how often that happens. We have some outrageously pushy parents (the ones whom I have had the displeasure of knowing have all been women, but there may be some men around also), and running things at the high school is exactly what these inappropriate, out-of-line folks are all about. It would not really be such an issue except that when the administrator is afraid of these parents, that is a very bad mix.

You have met these Mothers. We all have. They are brassy; brash; pushy; sometimes not terribly educated but that does not stop them from their mission of pushing their weight around and scaring the principal; and very often you will hear them threatening to sue, because they think that gets them attention. Everyone in the community knows who these women are, but they imagine they are respected and feared, rather than laughed at and disrespected.

This is exactly how it happens: Mom gets herself twisted in a knot because high school Student gets a B-plus rather than an A-minus on just one assignment. Mom charges to the high school loaded for bear and bent on getting Teacher "in trouble" with the Principal. Principal makes Teacher sit outside the office and wait while "Mom reads the whole book"..... Principal's phrase for allowing Mom to rant and rave for as long as she wants, but Teacher is not allowed to be present, because Principal is handing all the control to Mom. Later, Principal turns on Teacher and berates him, saying something rude and dismissive like "Get more rest", because Principal is afraid to stand up to Mom.

The next day Student comes to school smug and in control of the classroom, because she learned from Mom last night that Mom got Teacher "in trouble with" Principal. Student tells her friends, the story flashes around town like wildfire, and the final result is that all Students now understand that Teacher has absolutely no control in his own classroom, that Principal is trembling with fear, and that any Mom can show up at school now and start running the show.

The situation I describe all happened because of one grade that was less than perfect, although the quarter/ semester grade obviously was never going to be lower than an A.

You think I am kidding? You think I'm exaggerating? I truly wish I were.


coachcarter246 6 years, 11 months ago

I never played Basketball for Mort, but one thing I know for a fact, is that Mort is a wonderful man.

It's a shame to see all of the parents whining about how "mean" he was to their daughters...

It sounds more to me, that most of these "mistreated girls" were just weak minded individuals (probably genetics, judging by the negative posts made by their parents).

A "GOOD COACH" will mentally push his/her players to a mental crashing point to see how emotional taxing will affect their players drive, game-play, and ability to maintain control in the hardest of intellectual battles.. Let's not forget that sports are physically and MENTALLY charged.

Sounds to me like a lot of your girls were "quitters" and that a lot of you should quit as well... Quit complaining.

And don't hate on a coach for not playing your daughter... he/she get's paid to decide who's best for the TEAM.

One equation to remember while coaching: Lack of talent = lack of playing time.

Lastly, I'm not from Craig. Thankfully. I'd hate to reside in a town with such negativity. Having nothing other to do than Mine and be Negative must suck.



mlcc22 6 years, 11 months ago

I played for Mort in high school, and my freshmen year I would come home telling my parents he hates me! He yells at me all the time and he picks on me more then anyone.... Well a wise senior told me that means he likes you. Why would he waste his time with you if he didn't see something there! I took that and went with it. It was very true! If he doesn't "like" you why is he going to waste his time yelling and getting frustrated over your mistakes. He was and is an amazing coach. He cared about all of his TEAM! I have a lot of good memories with Mort and basketball. Really how many coaches take time to take their team rafting, to the sand dumes, do talent shows the last night of the week long camp, bowling, Christmas party with white elephant, extra... He took a lot of time out of the gym with his girls that he didn't have to do but he did because he cared about them more then just being his basketball team. If you want to admit it or not Morts office was always open for you to talk to him and it didn't just have to be basketball! I can promise I wasn't the best athlete to coach I had a bad attitude and I would get pissed at him a lot! But hey its sports and it isn't a walk in the park and seniors don't earn a spot just because they are seniors! And all these people complaining you aren't forced to do sports obviously if you can't take criticism and someone always pointing out your wrongs you are in the wrong program. It is his job to point out all the wrongs and help you fix it and sometimes it isn't always in the nicest way, but either take what is said and make yourself better or don't drag your team down if you can't handle the pressure and/or criticism. If he just high fived you every time then really would you or your team get any better? He wasn't a perfect guy and maybe not a state championship coach but I honestly believe with the talent and size of the school he did very well! And he cared about his players a lot more then some state championship coaches and I would take that over state any day! All these people like to point the finger, blame, critisize, and flat out just be rude. I would like to see you in the position and lets see where you take the team and the time and the effort you would put into it and how many kids and parents would just love you and think you are making the right choices. It isn't a pleasing program it is to teach kids good work ethic, responsibility, sportsmanship, keeps their grades up and much much more and Mort was defenitely a coach that followed all that. I really hope Mort knows he has more supporters than critics! I wish Mort the best and I am sad to see him leave we all knew it had to happen sometime but he had an amazing impact and those who didn't care to take it sure missed out! Lets hope the girls program doesn't take a turn for the worse and follow the boys program coaches hated and being replaced every other year!


amankra 6 years, 11 months ago

This is good for some people and bad for others! He was a great person and coach , although some would disagree he did have a great career. Hope you enjoy your retirement Mort! and good luck to the next coach!!


CharminChatty 6 years, 11 months ago

Just read Anita Dunnce's comment at 10:57 PM on April 22nd. It's about time someone should have the guts to write the truth about what goes on in the main office over at that high school. Bless you, Anita, for having the courage to tell the truth when so many others are afraid to be honest for fear of retaliation and losing their jobs. You have shown rare courage, Anita.

And this is why these comments should continue to be anonymous. Anonymity is the only thing that protects honest people from abuses of power.


basketball2015 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm was very disapointed to find out that Mort retired. I really wanted him as a coach. My dad had him as a coach and said that he was a great coach. While going to camps in the summer that he put on were great you learned alot.


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