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After 14 Up-And-Down Seasons

Veteran CHS grils hoops coach relinquishes post

By SVERRE BAKKE

The Enterprise

Columbia High School athletic director Howard Kreps is looking for a new CHS head girls basketball coach to replace...him.

Kreps became the second veteran CHS varsity head coach to resign in the last month. CHS head football coach Larry McCutcheon relinquished his position in January, after 21 seasons on the job.

Kreps, 45, decided to call it quits after 14 seasons as girls varsity basketball coach because he no longer has the energy to carry out the dual duties of the athletic director and a varsity head coach.

"I love the kids and I love the game, but it was just time for me to concentrate on one thing. And, for me, that's being the best athletic director for this school district I can be," he said.

Current employees of the school district will get first shot at filling the position of head girls basketball coach. The job will be posted as open in mid-April within the district, according to Kreps.

If no current district employees show interest, the position will be advertised publicly, he added.

So far, at least two district employees -- girls jayvee coach Elmer Kinder and Henkle Middle School eighth-grade girls and boys coach Mike Yarnell -- have expressed interest in taking over CHS's girls basketball program.

Kreps said it is likely others may come forward once the position is officially posted as open.

The Columbia High alumnus took over his alma mater's girls basketball program in 1989. His 14-year record was 138-164 (94-72 in his first seven years, 44-92 in his last seven).

That win-loss account includes a 13-15 post-season mark compiled during seven consecutive playoff showings (1989-90 to 1995-96, his first seven seasons on the job).

Columbia High's finest season under Kreps was 1991-92 when the Bruins -- after a third-place Trico League finish -- swept through the SW Washington 1A playoffs to capture the District 4 championship and the second of three straight trips to the state tournament.

Kreps' district record at CHS was 12-9, with 11 of those wins coming in years 2-4 of his tenure. His W-L ledger in three state 1A tournament appearances was 1-6.

"The game of girls basketball has changed dramatically since I first started coaching 22 years ago," he said during a recent interview in his Columbia High School office. "It's a faster-paced game now, and that's because the girls are a lot more athletic. They handle and shoot the ball so much better than they used to."

The ability to do those things consistently well has been Columbia High's Achilles' heel the past seven seasons. Consequently, during that span, CHS has produced one winning season (10-9 in 2000-01).

The Bruins finished 10-10 in 2002-03 after a promising start in which they won eight of their first nine games.

But their weakness at a key position was exposed during Trico Division play, against a higher caliber of competition than they saw during their non-league schedule.

"Our one big downfall was we didn't have a true point guard and all the other good teams did," Kreps noted. "And our shooting wasn't as good as other teams'."

Columbia tried to make up for its shortcomings with pure hustle -- a characteristic that became its trademark around the league, according to Kreps.

"Nobody in our league played harder than our girls," he noted. "No matter who we played or what the score was, the other coaches always complimented our players on how hard they played."

But, in the final issue, grit and guts weren't enough to help Columbia High experience its first playoff glory since 1995-96.

"We were a decent team with some pretty good players, and we lost some close games along the way," Kreps said. "But, in our defense, our league was the strongest, from six to one, that it's ever been. And that's not just my opinion; that's the opinion of all the coaches around the league."

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