Conarroe steps down as girls hoops coach | AspenTimes.com

Conarroe steps down as girls hoops coach

Jon Maletz

Aspen High School girls basketball coach Dave Conarroe looks on during one of his team's games last season. He is stepping down as coach. (Aspen Times file)

Ask Dave Conarroe how many games he watched his son, Andy, skate in during last winter’s high school hockey season, and he’ll answer without hesitation: three.

The games he didn’t attend, however, are foremost in his mind these days. Those are the one he doesn’t want to miss during Andy’s upcoming senior season.

Conarroe recently decided to vacate his post as Aspen High School’s girls basketball coach. His obligations as a father simply took precedence, he said Sunday.

“In one of those games [I missed last year], Andy had a game-winning goal,” he said. “It’s important that you share those kinds of moments with your kids. I want to be there to celebrate the successes, not just hear about them.”

Conarroe, who has been involved in the AHS athletic department for nearly 30 years in various capacities, said it was difficult juggling his duties as a coach and father. On one occasion, he attended his son’s game on the Front Range, then drove to Cedaredge to meet the team bus; he entered the gym mere minutes before tip-off.

When he reflected upon the season, Conarroe came to the conclusion he wasn’t being fair to his team.

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“It was tough. I felt like I was abandoning them,” he said. “Usually, the coach is on the bus, talking about what to do next. I felt a little guilty I wasn’t there.”

The decision was difficult, Conarroe said. After all, he coached the girls team for a total of 15 seasons, the Skiers boys for six, and also served as athletic director from 1989 to 1998. He was enamored of his job, from organizing the practices to incorporating techniques he used in the classroom on the court.

He was far from discouraged by his team’s 17-23 season during the past two years ” Conarroe’s latest stint as head coach. His team finished fifth out of seven teams in the Western Slope, but the league was rated second toughest in the state among others in 3A, he said. The four teams that finished ahead of the Skiers won their opening contests in state tournament play.

“We were always very competitive,” Conarroe said. “There were only a handful of times that we were blown out. Four or five of our games came down to the last shot.”

Conarroe initially didn’t think scheduling conflicts would be an issue. Things became more complicated, however, when Andy started to log more ice time. It was harder for Conarroe to make games than he had ever imagined, he said.

Conarroe explained his plight and his ultimate decision to step down in a letter to his team.

“I told them that it had nothing to do with basketball,” he said. “I was giving up something I love to spend more time with my son. It was too much of a struggle from a personal standpoint. I told them this was just one of those times when you have to make a tough choice.”

Conarroe reminisced Sunday, admitting that he will miss being on the bench when the winter season begins. His two-plus decades of coaching have produced some fine memories.

“I’ll miss the pre-game stuff and being in the locker room,” he said. “It’s a special time for anybody who’s played or coached. It’s such a solid, binding experience and a place where the adrenaline gets going.

“I’ll miss the strategy and even the bus rides. Coaching has been pretty good to me.”

Conarroe said this decision isn’t permanent, and he may reconsider his future in coaching once his son heads off to college. While he did advise athletic director Carol Sams not to shy away from potential long-term replacements, Conarroe said he wants to stay involved during the interim. He’ll continue his work with the athletes during the school’s drug education program, and he hopes to work with players.

Ultimately, the program’s new coach will determine Conarroe’s level of involvement.

“I’m still not too old ” although I look too old ” so maybe I can come back,” Conarroe said. “I’ll support the team as best I can.

“I’m hoping I can still make a positive contribution somehow.”

Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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