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Prep Notebook

Molloy's hunch was well based

When former Crater girls basketball coach Don Molloy decided it was time to pass the torch following the 1993-94 season, there was no doubt it in his mind who should get the handoff.

It was someone with a mind for the game, able to deal with players, parents and administrators. A person who could pour the time and energy Molloy felt he no longer had into the program.

His choice was David Heard.

Heard, however, never had coached a girls team. When Molloy broached the idea, Heard wasn't sure it was right for him. He hadn't so much as given it a second thought while coaching freshman and junior varsity teams at Ashland or sophomore and freshmen boys at Crater.

I would've said at that time, `No way, I'd never coach girls,' Heard admits. What changed my mind was talking to Molloy and a desire to have a head coaching job.

There's an axiom that says success follows when preparation meets opportunity. Heard thought he was preparing to coach a boys varsity team. It turns out, he was getting ready to build a top-notch girls program.

Heard has guided the Comets to three straight Southern Oregon Conference championships, a seventh-place state tournament finish last year and spot in the Class 4A state championship game last Saturday night.

Anybody would have liked to have coached this year's group, Molloy says. But I don't think too many people could've got them (into the championship game).

There is a loyal fan base that stretches back to Molloy's era. During the past three seasons, it has mushroomed.

Our average attendance might be the best in the state, Heard says. I don't think I could be in any happier of a situation. I can't imagine coaching at any other high school, boys or girls.

Heard grew up in Ashland and played for Jerry Hauck's 1985 SOC championship team. He played a year at Southern Oregon and then coached an Ashland freshman team to a 19-0 record the next season. He returned to Southern Oregon and then spent two seasons coaching an Ashland junior varsity squad before becoming a health and physical education teacher at Scenic Middle School.

I was in on the interview when Dave was hired to teach health at Scenic, Molloy says. I was very impressed with him then. I could really tell that he was under control, disciplined and organized.

After I had coached 10 or 11 years, I thought they needed fresh energy to get to the tournament and that takes an awful lot of time.

Heard took in nearly every home game during Molloy's last year and decided to pursue the opening.

I felt comfortable about what I wanted to do to be successful with the girls, Heard says. There were things I wanted to do with the girls that I couldn't have pulled off with boys.

Molloy's last club was senior-dominated, and Heard's first team had one senior and two juniors.

It was a natural transition time, Heard says. I didn't have to cut anyone. But I came in at a time when there was a great group of girls coming up.

Heard's first team was dominated by sophomores and looked to freshman Caryn Ross for much of its offense. The youthful club took its lumps, going 5-17 and finishing eighth in the conference. Heard's second team was 19-5 -- 14-2 in the SOC -- and won the school's first outright conference crown.

Crater improved to 22-5 last year with the arrival of twins Chassie and Cherrith Wiersma, and played four games in the tourney. The team was 24-3 this season, winning its third straight SOC title.

Each game, Heard has a defensive plan different from the night before.

I feel my strength is recognizing other people's strengths and stopping them, Heard says. I think it's harder to be an offensive coach than a defensive coach. You can put the people in the right place on offense, but it depends on their shooting. With defense, you can put people in the right place to prevent the other team from scoring.

After turning over the reins, Molloy kept out of sight, until this weekend.

This group of seniors (Ross, Teri Schneider and Jennifer Dunlap) was pretty much the last I worked with between their eighth-grade and ninth-grade years, Molloy says. It was better than trying to answer `Why aren't you coaching us?'

Watching the Comets this weekend, he had no regrets. His kids were in good hands.

(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483 or at )