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Aspen football coach: ‘This is the best place for me’

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad Aspen Times Weekly
ALL |

ASPEN – News of Aspen schools Superintendent Diana Sirko’s recent appointment to deputy commissioner of education for the state of Colorado likely made Skiers fans a tad uneasy.

While many offered their congratulations to Sirko, who will resign her current post June 4, they wondered aloud if her husband, Aspen head football coach Mike Sirko, would be following her to Denver.

“My wife laughs about it, saying she’s been the superintendent here for six years and the first question she heard was, ‘What’s your husband doing?'” Mike Sirko joked Wednesday afternoon. “It makes you feel good, like you’ve made an impact on the kids.”

He hopes that will continue. Sirko, the architect behind the program’s resurgence, confirmed that he is staying put for the 2010 season, and for the foreseeable future.

“The kids kind of spread the word, but I’m going to tell them all [today],” Sirko said. “These kids have worked hard for me. They’ve been loyal to the program. I can’t leave them. I don’t want to leave them hanging.”

On a personal level, the decision was difficult, the coach admitted. While living apart from his wife of 33 years is familiar – during Diana Sirko’s first four years in Aspen, he lived in Colorado Springs and coached Doherty High School – the arrangement is hardly ideal.

“Most times [we’d see each other every weekend]. I think we missed one,” Mike Sirko said. “I can drive in my sleep up I-70. … It’s tough being away from each other. We’re not real good at that kind of stuff.”

Because of that, Sirko said he was seriously leaning toward coaching the Skiers for one more season before making the move to the Front Range.

Not anymore.

“I was thinking ‘Oh well, I’ll get through next fall and then I’ll leave,'” he added. “Then I thought I’d have a lot of unfinished business. Young kids I still need to work with and a coaching staff I really enjoy. Some of the community people I’ve met. I don’t feel like leaving it. … I figured I still want to coach, and this is the best place for me. I love these kids to death.

“My wife feels better that I’m not [leaving] … She can then come back here. She loves it here. We both do.”

Sirko has experienced marked success in his three years in Aspen. The Skiers are now perennial 2A Western Slope title contenders. They have won 24 games, made three consecutive postseason appearances and lost just one home game under the venerable coach’s watch.

The revival was punctuated by a postseason victory over Pagosa Springs in November – Aspen’s first since 1973 – and a near upset of top-ranked and eventual state champion Faith Christian at home one week later.

More than 1,500 people crowded the bleachers and sidelines to watch the Skiers and Eagles, Aspen High athletic director Carol Sams told the Times recently. She did not return calls or an e-mail seeking comment Wednesday.

Sirko said he still has vivid memories of that frigid afternoon, one he said rivals any during his days coaching at the 4A and 5A levels.

“The kids belonged there. They proved themselves,” Sirko added. “I want to be a part of that, keeping the program rolling as best I can with what I’ve got, and still having a relationship with the kids and the coaches. … I love the challenge.”

Sirko hopes to embrace that challenge for many seasons to come.

“[Penn State coach Joe Paterno] is what, 82? I’ve got about another 26 years in me. I probably won’t remember who I am by then, or the kids,” he joked.

“[Aspen] has a special place in my heart. When I end my career, I want to end it here. I feel like that’s what I planned on doing when I got here. I’m not ready to end it yet.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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