Back to the Doghouse: Q&A with new Moffat County girls basketball coach Jim Loughran
With decades of past experience with Moffat County High School athletes, the new coach for Lady Bulldog basketball won’t need to take much time to get used to the MCHS home court.
Moffat County announced this week that Jim Loughran will take over the position of head coach for the girls hoops program, recently vacated by Kenley Nebeker.
MCHS Athletic Director Bobby Howard said the selection was made by a committee that included assistant coaches, players and parents to determine who would be the final choice.
“All the candidates were great, and it was a long process, but when we finally finished, Jim was on top,” Howard said.
Loughran worked as a teacher and coach for Moffat County School District from 1979 to 2006 with various coaching positions at MCHS and Craig Middle School, ranging from track and field to soccer to football.
Hoops has been his primary focus, however, including assisting the MCHS boys freshman team in 2010 and 2011, as well as working with young AAU-level players in more recent years.
All four of his children — sons Sean, Anthony and Kevin and daughter Amy Peck — were part of the Bulldog basketball program, and he was instrumental in leading the girls team to the state tournament in 1992 and 1993.
After retiring from education, Loughran also owned the landscaping business, JL Lawn Service, which he recently sold. Since then he said he’s been looking for a new project and found the perfect fit with the winter sports season starting practices Nov. 12.
Craig Press: What interested you in taking on the head coach job?
Loughran: Well, I guess I just like to coach. When I saw it opened, I thought it was an important opportunity to help the school more than anything, with such a quick leaving of the previous coach. Stepping into it at this point, you need to give (Nebeker) credit — he built a good program, spent a lot of time on it this summer. The girls were interested and wanting to have a good team, so I feel very fortunate to be able to take them at this point. It’ll be a lot of me trying to understand where they’re at.
What is your first impression of the current team?
They’re very self-motivated, and I think once you get a taste of going to state as far as they did, you want to go back. What I told them in the interview was that the first time I took girls to state we were playing to win, then the second year we were playing to keep from getting beat. I think they’ll find that it’s going to be a different challenge with playing and who you play. There’s a lot of motivation on their part and my part, so we just have to work to keep what our real goal is under control, to play and practice and get ready for each game and not worry about the end. It’s kind of a blank slate right now, and we’ll have a mini-clinic so that I can get familiar with the girls and the program itself. I’m pretty excited for that.
What were some of the highlights back in the 1990s?
The last year we went to state, we lost to Berthoud by one point to go to the state finals. There’s a good history of girls basketball in Craig, and that’s kind of when it started with coaches like Coach (Craig) Mortensen. He had a great run. Since then it’s been a new coach every couple years, so hopefully we can keep that under control for a while.
Was your decision to apply at all influenced by your grandson playing high school ball this year?
Yeah, I’ll be at all those games watching him, so I just thought it’s a great opportunity to more or less do both. I may not see all of his games, but I’ll certainly see a number of them. I’ve been coaching AAU for the past five years, so I’ve never really quit coaching. I feel real honored to be chosen to do this.
How do you feel the community builds athletes in this particular sport?
I’m really excited about creating a good chemistry with kids in the program. I’ve always believed in a program, but I was always too busy to have a good program, and what I mean by that is you think about it just being varsity. To me it’s varsity, JV, freshmen, seventh- and eighth-grade, and maybe even some influence with AAU as far as development of kids fundamentally. By the time they get into high school, that varsity level should be like an advanced placement class where you’re working your best to be part of the best. I think the seventh- and eighth-grade coaches will be really receptive to that.
Anything you’ll be focusing on from the get-go?
I really want to know what girls were working this summer and what they were taught. I don’t want to go in and completely change the whole program because it’ll be different for them, so we’ll kind of merge my philosophy with what they have now. I’m really big on philosophy, on my expectation of kids and on setting goals for what we’re going to do. I also want to try and get this community back to the gym and support Moffat County basketball. I’d like to get that gym full again.
The grandeur of a a Hollywood musical and the sensibilities of the big top were on display Friday night at the Center of Craig.