Craig Mortensen, center with plaque, was honored during a ceremony Saturday at Craig Middle School. Mortensen, who coached basketball at Moffat County High School since 1976, retired in April after recording 514 wins.

Photo by Ben Bulkeley

Craig Mortensen, center with plaque, was honored during a ceremony Saturday at Craig Middle School. Mortensen, who coached basketball at Moffat County High School since 1976, retired in April after recording 514 wins.

Community honors retired Moffat County hoops coach Craig Mortensen

Craig Mortensen’s stay in Moffat County was supposed to be a short one.

It didn’t turn out that way.

“I thought I would be in Craig for two or three years,” he said. “Originally, I had plans of moving up the ladder.

“Eventually, it became more than winning. I started really enjoying the young people I was coaching, and it reinforced how important my job was. Moffat County has been the big time for me.”

The Moffat County High School basketball coach began his career in Moffat County in 1976, and retired in April after 30 years on the sidelines.

On Saturday, more than 100 former players, coaches and community members gathered at Craig Middle School to honor his career, with photos from his time as a player and coach, guest speakers and a plaque.

Mortensen holds the MCHS record with 514 wins for both the boys and girls programs.

Speakers took turns sharing memories about Mortensen’s time on the court and in the commuity.

Laurel Mortensen, Craig’s daughter, said her father’s dedication to the game and the program can be explained with more numbers than just his 514 wins.

“There were two things that came to mind,” she said. “Everything he did and gave, and the miles.”

Laurel said that during his 34 years coaching at Moffat County High School, Craig drove more than 320,000 total miles to and from games.

“That’s just a testament to his dedication,” she said. “But, it doesn’t tell you what a wonderful and good father, coach and husband he is.

“That will be his legacy, more than any record on the wall.”

Laurel said Craig wouldn’t have won 514 games without the help of his wife, Margie.

“She was always home, taking care of us girls,” Laurel said. “There would not have been a Coach Mort without her.”

Part of Mortensen’s legacy will also be the players he taught, Laurel said.

“He always taught through example,” she said. “That great effort and moral character was something he instilled in all of his players.”

Matt Ray was named Mortensen’s successor in April.

Ray played for Mortensen when he coached the boys team, and coached alongside him for the last eight years as his assistant on the girls team.

“I had the privilege to play for Mort,” he said. “He always pushed me, and now I know why — he wanted the best for me.

“I was blessed for the last eight years to learn alongside him. My goal now is to keep the program at the high level he set.”

Steamboat Springs High School’s Kelly Meek won more than 500 games at the helm of the Sailors’ boys basketball program.

On Saturday, he said having a rival like Mortensen made him a better coach.

“He said I made him a better coach,” Meek said. “I think he made me fight to be the coach I was.”

But, coaching for more than 30 years wouldn’t have been possible if he didn’t enjoy the job, Mortensen said.

“Margie said, ‘I wish I had the passion like you have a passion to coach,’” he said. “I just look at all the former coaches, players and parents I’ve been around, and think of how lucky I have been.

“It’s always been about all the people involved.”

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