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Lathen steps down as coach of the Ashland girls

ASHLAND — Ken Lathen has resigned as coach of the Ashland High girls basketball team, Grizzly athletic director Karl Kemper has announced.

Lathen, 60, led the team to the playoffs in each of his three years at the helm while compiling a 61-23 record (.726). His short but successful run included a program-best fifth-place finish at state in 2006 and consecutive Southern Oregon Conference championships in '05 and '06.

He announced the resignation during the Grizzlies' postseason awards banquet.

"Ken has been a credit to AHS in every way," Kemper wrote in a press release. "He has a relentlessly positive attitude and truly cares about kids. He conducts himself with class and was a positive role model at all times."

Lathen, who was in Chicago this morning, could not be reached for comment.

Lathen was hired only weeks before the 2004-05 season and quickly picked up where his predecessor, Steve Humann, left off, guiding the Grizzlies to the state round of 16 and a 15-11 record.

Everything came together the following season. Led by SOC player-of-the-year Jamie Roupp and then-freshman sensation Brenna Heater, Ashland won 27 of its first 30 games to earn the program's first state semifinal berth. The Grizzlies were beaten decisively by Southridge and Tualatin over the next two days but still went down as the best team in program history.

"We had a heck of a run, a heck of a year," Lathen said after the loss to Tualatin in the third-place game. "For me personally, it's just been a wonderful experience to build relationships with kids that I dearly love. They're great. The parents are great, the administration's great. It's been just a fantastic experience. Old guys like that."

Lathen's final season at Ashland may have been his bumpiest ride of all. Ashland opened the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the state's newly-formed 5A classification but struggled out of the gate and wound up finishing second to Crater in the final Southern Sky Conference standings.

As with Lathen's previous two Ashland teams, however, the Grizzlies peaked at the end of the season and entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak. The Grizzlies went cold from the field in the round of 16 though, and Lathen's final game at Ashland was a 50-45 loss to West Albany.

"It was a privilege to work with this truly special man for the past three years," Kemper said. "He will be dearly missed. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."

Joe Zavala is sports editor at the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456, ext. 224, or e-mail joe.zavala@dailytidings.com

Lathen steps down as coach of the Ashland girls