Craig resident Eric Hamilton is returning to the hardwood he once played on to lead his alma mater.
Hamilton, a 1986 Moffat County High School graduate, accepted the MCHS boys varsity basketball coaching position Aug. 15.
He is expected to be officially hired at Thursday night’s Moffat County School Board meeting.
Hamilton, who played at MCHS for three years, returns to the school off a three-year stint as head coach of the Hayden High School girls varsity basketball team.
“I am really excited to come back to my old high school in a coaching position,” Hamilton said Tuesday. “It will be a little adjustment for me, but as far as coaching philosophy and how I treat my players, it won’t be much different from girls to boys.”
In his three-year tenure at Hayden, Hamilton helped lead the Tigers to two 2A state tournaments, including a third-place finish in 2009.
The coach compiled a 56-19 record at Hayden, good for a 74.6-percent winning percentage, including a 23-4 mark in his first year.
“Leaving Hayden was probably the toughest decision I have ever made,” he said. “The program and players, and people were awesome. I built up relationships with the players and the community supported the program.
“I had nothing but great things happen to me there, but I always wanted to come back to Moffat County and coach at my old school.”
In Hayden, Hamilton said his players knew the importance of summer workouts and stayed focused on season goals.
Not having summer workouts with the Bulldogs will hurt, he said, especially when it comes to the faster pace he wants to play offensively and defensively.
“I’ve always liked the transition-style basketball and I like to do a lot of running and man-to-man defense,” he said. “During the summers, I usually do a lot of fundamental drills and we have a lot of team time.
“Not having that with this group doesn’t allow us to get an early jump on the season.”
Hamilton said the Bulldogs will run a lot more compared to previous seasons.
“I don’t like the slow and methodical type of basketball,” he said. “If I change up anything, it will be the speed. I like to teach exciting basketball that is exciting to play and watch. It is still a sport and I want the kids to have fun, but I want to pick up the intensity a notch.”
MCHS Athletic Director Jeff Simon said Hamilton’s success spoke for itself.
“He was by far an outstanding candidate who’s had great success,” he said. “In our opinion, he bled blue and he was in coaching for all the right reasons.”
Simon said MCHS was looking for a candidate who had head coaching experience and who could push players “beyond their own expectations.”
“We wanted someone who could help the kids be able to achieve loftier goals,” he said. “We didn’t only think that Eric had that ability, but he had a proven record of it in Hayden.”
Hamilton’s play while at MCHS allowed him to continue onto Doane College in Crete, Neb., where he played point guard for two years before finishing his exercise science degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
While at MCHS, Hamilton played under longtime coach Craig Mortensen and helped the Bulldogs win three straight league titles.
Hamilton said one of the biggest contributors to the team’s success was a solid program, which he hopes to bring back to the high school.
“With Mortensen, we had a rock-solid program and one of the reasons I came here was to be part of bringing the program back to what it used to be,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about rebuilding, but I don’t think the seniors want to rebuild. Instead of rebuilding, I want to build momentum and play good basketball and try and win every game.”
Along with his wife, Keri, Hamilton has owned and operated Big Rack Outfitters in Craig for 19 years.
Their oldest son, Matthew, will start as a freshman in his father’s program.
“This was definitely a family decision,” he said. “We thought about it for days, but one of the biggest things that helped my decision was the chance to be able to coach my son.”
As Hamilton prepares to enter a bigger program, he said one of his first priorities is meeting with players. After that, he said, it’s time to work.
“I think to be a good coach, you have to have confidence, and I do,” he said. “I bring a lot of energy, and I love coaching basketball and have a passion for the game.”
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