Former Aspen coach knows the feeling |

Former Aspen coach knows the feeling

Jon Maletz

Aspen, CO ColoradoBASALT Eighth-grade girls basketball practice officially kicked off its winter season Tuesday without a familiar face at the helm.Rick Ryan, Basalt head baseball coach and Aspen eighth-grade basketball coach the past four seasons, said he is still struggling to grasp why he wasn’t in the gym Tuesday. Despite numerous e-mails and other communications expressing his continued interest in the position, the administration did not respond to Ryan’s inquiries.The school chose physical education teacher Rebecca Carson, a 15-year coaching veteran from Colorado Springs, to fill the post, Principal Paula Canning confirmed Thursday. Ryan heard about the hiring from his daughter, eighth-grader Alex.”Somebody doesn’t like me,” Ryan said Thursday. “It makes me want to scream, ‘What’s going on up there?'”Ryan began trying to contact Canning during the first week of school, he said. Ryan’s wife, Dawn, who runs the district’s preschool, also e-mailed Canning multiple times on her husband’s behalf, he said.Amid rumors that Carson had taken the coaching position in late October, Ryan said he and his wife continued to solicit information from the administration.”What happened was just so unprofessional,” he said. “At least have the guts to tell me you’re going with someone else.”Canning said she received one e-mail from Dawn Ryan on Aug. 4, which indicated Rick was interested in the position. Canning, who was out of town at the time, replied, saying she would forward the message to first-year Assistant Principal Tom Heald, who also oversees athletic department matters. The message was never forwarded. Canning said she simply forgot about the correspondence.”It is a miscommunication and nothing else,” Canning said. “It was one e-mail. I get lots of e-mails. There’s no hidden agenda here. Somehow it got dropped.”Nobody contacted me about this since August.” The Aspen Times has learned that an e-mail sent to Canning on Nov. 2 reiterated Ryan’s interest in coaching the team. Heald said Thursday he knew nothing about Ryan or his interest in the position. He acknowledged communicating with the Ryans about administrative matters. Basketball never came up, he said. “I asked around to find out who’s done what in the past, and it sounded like the tradition in the past was to have lots of different coaches step forward,” Heald added. “In this case, we had a staff member who had an extensive background in movement activities indicate an interest in girls basketball. In looking at the season, we didn’t have any other bodies to fill the position.”Ryan has been through this before. Aspen High School athletic director Carol Sams decided in July 2005 not to retain him as head baseball coach amid rumblings that he was too hard on his players. Ryan, a former Skiers player, was an assistant for one year and head coach for nine.”I went in and she said, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore,'” he said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ She made me think I didn’t see what was going on. I was hanging in her office the day before, and we were laughing and talking. I was blindsided.”She said all kinds of things. That they were headed in a different direction. That baseball had to be more fun. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is still varsity. I still have to be a coach. I can’t just say this is PE.'”Ryan said his plight and that of former Aspen football coach Travis Benson (see related story) uncover an inherent contradiction in the sports department. The school district needs to define its direction and has yet to do so.”They wanted baseball to be fun and not as competitive, but they’re saying the opposite about football a year later,” Ryan said. “The kids are the ones who are always having to transition: Here’s a new coach, learn to love him. The kids are not being put first, and that’s what it should be about.”Ryan said he was looking forward to coaching Alex as he did his older daughter: Ashley is now a senior on the Skiers basketball team. And while he insists this latest incident doesn’t bother him, Ryan is worried about its affect on his children.”Alex is not going to play, and Ashley has been unhappy about how things have gone down,” he added. “They’ve seen what’s been going on around them. It’s a shame because they’re good athletes. They can’t get into it like they should.”Ryan wishes he could cut all ties with Aspen given how events transpired but said it’s hard with all three of his kids still in the school system. Ryan’s youngest, Luke, is 7.”I’m going to push him towards art. I’ll tell him to be in the school play if he wants drama,” Ryan said. “I’m lucky that I’m locked in down in Basalt, because things here are only getting worse.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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