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Heard makes it official

The Crater girls basketball coach cites family as the reason for his resignation

CENTRAL POINT - Sitting straight up at a desk in the front of a classroom at Scenic Middle School on Wednesday morning, David Heard looked into the television cameras and said, "Well, I think we all know why we're here."

With that, one of Southern Oregon's most successful girls basketball coaches resigned from his position directing Crater High's program.

Heard took the job as a 27-year-old in April of 1994, and 159 victories, six Southern Oregon Conference titles and three state runner-up finishes later, he stepped down as a 35-year-old who said he has learned a lot in eight seasons guiding the Comets.

"The reason I'm leaving is to be with my family, spend more time with my kids," said Heard, who has daughters ages 6 and — with his wife, Pam.

"I had goals early on in my career of maybe someday being a college coach. Those things have changed. Having a family is the biggest reason those things have changed."

Heard, the dean of students and athletic director at Scenic, said he was "pretty sure" a year ago at this time that the 2001-02 season would be his last at Crater.

His team went 23-1 in the regular season and 14-0 in SOC play to claim its third consecutive conference title, going 41-1 during that three-season span.

But as the No. 2 seed at the Class 4A state tournament two weeks ago, the No. 2-ranked Comets finished a disappointing seventh to end up 25-3.

Heard didn't show any regret Wednesday about the manner in which his final season concluded, nor did he lament never winning the state title despite three championship-game appearances.

"I would have liked to have seen the girls win a state championship and this community get one," said Heard, who coached his 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2000-01 teams to runner-up placings. "But my life ... it's complete."

The question now is who will be next to coach the SOC's dominant program, a position deemed "the ideal girls coaching job in the state" by Heard?

Crater athletic director Dan Speasl was brief in answering that query Wednesday.

"We haven't even discussed it," Speasl said. "At this point, we haven't even had a chance to sit down with the administrators and the superintendent and talk about it."

The leading candidate to succeed Heard - though Speasl didn't offer any names - seems to be Scott Dippel, 25, a teacher at Scenic who volunteered under Heard in 1998-99 and has served as an official Comets assistant the last three seasons.

Heard's other varsity assistant, Larry Ryerson, is also resigning.

Dippel and his father, Greg, Crater's JV coach, are now running the program until a new head coach is appointed.

Scott Dippel graduated from Crater in 1994 and the University of Portland in 1998. He has a master's degree in education from Southern Oregon University and has been an AAU coach in the Rogue Valley in recent years.

"I know that I'm organizing things right now, but I don't know what's going to happen," Dippel said. "I'm gonna leave that up to the school."

The Comets will have one starter - current sophomore Katie Robertson, a small forward - and four key reserves back next season.

With stars Amy Denson and Sarah Pool set to graduate and head to the Arizona State and California-Berkeley women's programs, respectively, and four other letter-winners also out of eligibility, this off-season seemed a convenient time for Heard to resign.

But he said his decision was about family and lifestyle, not the talent remaining in the Crater program, which Heard believes is considerable.

Heard wouldn't rule out a possible return to coaching down the road. But he said for the foreseeable future his involvement in basketball will be very minimal - not that that will be easy.

"It's hard to give it up when it's in your blood," Heard said. "Most of my relationships that I have with people are because of basketball."

Both Speasl and Dippel said they didn't know of Heard's intentions until recently, but neither expressed surprise with the decision.

And both paid their respects.

"David did a lot," Speasl said. "He had a lot of energy. He worked awful hard in the off-season. He spent a lot of time with the kids in the summer in the open gym. I think that all showed up in the win-loss column.

"We're real appreciative of what David did."

Added Dippel: "David really boosted the popularity of the sport in the valley. We've had great kids, great success.

"The (Crater) gym is kind of the house that David built."

Heard, who played at Ashland High and SOU (then Southern Oregon State College) in the 1980s, said he "dreamt" of the success he would indeed enjoy with the Comets when he was hired to replace the retired Don Molloy in 1994.

"I still remember winning that first semifinal game (in 1997-98) and being in non-belief that whole night that we were going to be playing in the state-championship game the next day," Heard said.

"That's a very vivid memory."

And it's just one of many Heard surely harbors from his unprecedented run with the Crater girls.

Reach reporter at 776-4483 or e-mail