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Skinner fills Grizzlies hoop post

ASHLAND ­ Ashland High School's search for a new boys basketballcoach proved less arduous than expected.

John Skinner, a 22-year coaching veteran, has been hired to to replaceMark Risen.

When Risen resigned last month to take a similar position at Sweet HomeHigh, Ashland administrators were looking at the possibility of going withan interim coach.

About that time, Skinner, who has most recently been coaching in Indiana,and his wife were visiting relatives in Medford. He expressed interest inthe opening and school administrators quickly checked out his resume.

He got high praise from everybody we talked to, including his formerprincipal, Ashland athletic director Jim Nagel said. We're reallypleased someone of his experience and capabilities was available and thateverything was able to fall right in place.

Skinner will also replace Risen as dean of students.

This will be Skinner's second tour of duty in the Southern Oregon Conference.

Skinner coached at Hidden Valley during the 1983-84 season before movingon to Enterprise High in Redding, Calif.

Hidden Valley was winless the previous season and lost the first 16 gamesbefore snapping a 40-game losing streak with a 63-50 win over Crater. TheMustangs went on to win its last four games.

With the basketball job filled, the Grizzlies have another ­ morepressing ­ opening. Boys soccer coach Steve Isser and junior varsitycoach Tom Phillips resigned late last week and preseason workouts for thefall season are just a month away.

The job just became officially open (Tuesday), Nagel said.We've got just about four weeks.

Isser, who followed David Hollingsworth as the school's third head coach,compiled a 31-35-5 overall record in six seasons.

It was a difficult, challenging situation with parents' concernsabout the program and a coach feeling he was on the right track, Nagelsaid.

He was kind of frustrated everything hasn't fallen into the rightplace and the prospects for everything falling in the right place didn'tlook real good.

Isser said increased demands at his cabinet shop were also a factor.

It was time to go, Isser said.

Ashland's best season under Isser was 1994 when the Grizzlies finished6-2 in the conference. Ashland finished third in the standings, but wasawarded second place when Mazama was stripped of its SOC title. The Grizzlieswere beaten in the conference playoffs that season.

I looked every year to see how much better we could've done,Isser said. I always felt we were within 85 percent of our optimalpotential.

We haven't been endowed with talent the last six years. What Iput in place was a very good conditioning program ­ something I'm prettypleased about. After you leave the Ashland program, if you want to playin college or somewhere else in the world, they will know the game and canspeak the language (of soccer) anywhere.