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Interim coach making most of situation

A funny thing happened to Terry Rasmussen on his way toward retirement as a basketball coach.

First, he was pulled back in to serve as junior varsity assistant at Crater High before he even got one season away from the court.

Now one year later, he’s the interim head coach of the Comets’ varsity boys basketball team.

“I keep telling people I think I’m the only coach in the state of Oregon who didn’t apply for the job and never had been pining to be a head varsity basketball coach,” Rasmussen said with a laugh Monday. “It’s not something that was on my bucket list.”

But when Crater head coach Glenn Johannes was forced into a one-year hiatus by health issues, Rasmussen’s name was the first out of Johannes’ mouth as an interim successor and an easy choice for Crater athletic director David Heard.

Rasmussen, who by day works as a principal broker at John L. Scott Real Estate, has coached at some level since, as a high schooler, he assumed control of his sister’s seventh grade basketball team. He’s hit just about every level of coaching since, serving as an assistant coach to Brian Morse at Cascade Christian High from 2006-13 before being wooed back to the court by Johannes last year.

Rasmussen had stepped away from Cascade Christian so he could watch his grandson, Luke Pomeroy, play as a freshman at Crater High. He decided to give in to Johannes so he could be closer to the action with his grandson on the JV team, but even that came with a twist as Pomeroy wound up making the varsity team.

Regardless, Rasmussen enjoyed the times they were together and, even though he was slated to coach the freshmen this year to spend time with his other grandson, Beau Pomeroy, Rasmussen was willing to step into the varsity spot for a year given the circumstances.

However he’s gotten to this point, Rasmussen and the Comets have not missed a beat.

Crater enters today’s 7 p.m. game against North Medford with a 3-0 record and the Crater Basketball Invitational title under its belt following a weekend of wild action. Crater dominated Yreka (73-37) before securing overtime wins on successive nights against Sutherlin (62-59) and Ridgeview (69-64).

“The kids and I are having a blast together,” said Rasmussen. “The reason you do this is because you love the kids and not because you love anything else about it. They get under your skin. Basketball’s a tool and if you think basketball is an end-all, you’re not coaching for the right reasons. It’s a tool to help kids understand about life and how you deal with life’s pressure situations and in so many other ways where you have to stop and think about how you’re going to react.”

There have been tests along the way, whether it’s been the coaching change, a move from the Class 6A to 5A, the loss of one of last year’s best players, 6-foot-7 junior Jacob Hintemeyer (transferred to Southridge), or arrival of another key player in 5-8 senior Christian Reyes (transferred in from North Medford).

When it came to on-court reactions, Rasmussen said his team was initially thrown when it gave up a late lead to Sutherlin and was forced into settling matters in overtime.

“You could see them scowling that they didn’t stop them when Sutherlin scored at the buzzer,” said Rasmussen. “But when they sat down on the bench, I just looked them in the eye and said, ‘This is fun. Aren’t you guys having fun yet? Isn’t this what you’ve dreamed about all your life, winning in overtime? Well, you have to get there to do that.’”

The Comets answered the challenge when Luke Pomeroy scored the first four points of the extra session and senior Gunnar Asher scored five of his team-high 19 points in overtime to secure the win.

One night later, the hustling play of junior Tanner Mallams allowed Crater to go into OT for a second straight game. Reyes, who had a game-high 30 points, missed a tying 3-pointer in the waning seconds of regulation but Mallams, who stands only 5-8, tracked down the rebound and saved the ball to Asher, who made a clutch 3-pointer to force OT.

“These kids have a whole lotta heart,” said Rasmussen. “There’s a fire inside them that I’m hoping by midseason catches on and they start flying around even more.”

Senior Dean Orozco has been another pivotal influence on both ends of the floor, and Rasmussen definitely has high hopes as his team preps for its first run in the Midwestern League.

Before then, however, the Comets have a big challenge tonight in North Medford and then move on to a tournament that’s near and dear to Rasmussen, the Southern Oregon Subaru Christmas Classic hosted by Cascade Christian and Phoenix.

“That was really my baby,” said Rasmussen. “Coach Morse turned it over to me and we blew it up and made it huge. David Henry is doing it now and he’s just doing a great job with it as well. It’s great that we’re a part of it this year because I love those guys over there (at Cascade Christian). They’re just good friends of mine. I’d probably still be there if I hadn’t retired from coaching.”

One thing Rasmussen wants to make clear, however, is that this stint as a head coach is a one-year deal. He said his wife Ginger is being extremely patient with being a “basketball widow” as he attends to all sorts of details on and off the court, but the couple has a trip planned at the end of the season for Kona in Hawaii and he doesn’t plan on carrying any basketball thoughts with him to the island.

“It’s been a lot of fun and being able to do this, I really believe, is a privilege,” Rasmussen said of taking over for Johannes, “and yet sometimes I don’t think I want to carry this on too awful long.”

As Rasmussen continues to learn the hard way, the life of an assistant coach and a head coach are drastically different.

“I’m a little overwhelmed to be honest,” he said. “There’s a whole heck of a lot to this job that you just don’t think about. I’ve been coaching for years where you show up and coach and then walk out of the gym.”

“Now I’m dealing with paperwork and can this kid ride with this kid,” added Rasmussen. “Today’s picture day so you have to make sure everyone is there and it’s all set up, and then you have to deal with the OSAA and update your scores. I’m telling you, I feel like I am spending more time doing basketball stuff than I am doing my real estate job.”

Rasmussen said it would be even worse if it were his program he was trying to build. Thankfully, he’s been asked to be more of a caretaker and he credits assistant coaches Matt Vranes, Joe Hess and Dalton Richardson, as well as all those at the lower school levels, for stepping up and taking some concerns off his plate.

“I’m running pretty much the same program we were running,” he said, “but I do have my own twists and my own things I’ve put in.”

“Hopefully Glenn will recover and be OK to take over in the spring,” added Rasmussen. “April’s a ways away and that will give him some time to get back in the saddle and be ready physically, because it is his program.”

To help in the transition, the coaches agreed to essentially keep their distance, mostly due to the belief that if you give Johannes a crumb he’s going to want to devour that and go in search of more. Since he is recovering from a stroke in May, neither thought that would be a beneficial situation.

“I don’t want to bother him in such a way that his mind is on it,” said Rasmussen. “I want him to simply stay home and keep his mind right so he’s ready to take this back over.”

In Johannes’ first year, Crater finished fourth in the Class 6A Southern Oregon Hybrid with a 3-9 league and 7-16 overall record. Johannes guided Phoenix to the Class 4A state championship in 2011 and a runner-up showing in 2012, posting a four-year record of 79-33 before moving to Crater.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry