Time for Owens to come out of retirement
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…
Time is rapidly winding down for South Tahoe High School and its hopes of procuring the best unemployed volleyball coach in these parts.
With approximately a week remaining in the application process, STHS still hasn’t received any interest from Rich Owens. In fact, there has been only one applicant, and unfortunately, that applicant isn’t Owens.
South Tahoe Athletic Director Frank Kovac expects to move quickly to fill the position created by Alan Lambert’s resignation after the Vikings’ successfully reached the 1997 state tournament.
“The position has only been open since Jan. 20 and it will be open for about two weeks and then we’ll see what kind of response we get,” Kovac said. “We can’t hang on forever. There’s off-season conditioning and club teams to think about and we need a coach to set tournament schedules, so we need to get the ball rolling.”
But the obvious choice is Owens.
With one of the state’s most talented nucleuses returning next season, the Vikings could win it all – if placed in the right hands. Those hands belong to Owens.
While the Vikings were productive during Lambert’s six-year coaching stint, they never became a factor at the state level. Owens’ teams advanced to the state title game three times during his eight seasons with the Vikings.
Moreover, Owens led the Vikings to its last state volleyball title in 1990. His 12-year prep coaching record of 340-89 rivals STHS boys basketball coach Tom Orlich. In addition to his three state title appearances, Owens has captured six zone titles. Owens’ final three zone championships came during a four-year coaching stint at Whittell.
In Northern Nevada, Owens should be known as “Killer” because his small Viking teams were the only upstarts capable of breaking Southern Nevada’s state championship stranglehold. Until Douglas lost in the state finals last fall, South Tahoe had been the only Northern Nevada school to appear in the championship for 14 years. Owens’ teams lost in the finals in 1985 and 1988 before winning their only state title in 1990.
More importantly, there aren’t many coaches any friendlier than Owens.
But there’s only one catch, and it’s a major one. Owens, who has been out of coaching since 1995, may not have time for the Vikings for several years. Until Owens is through putting out fires for the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department – his employer for the past 18 years – coaching may have to wait.
During previous coaching stints, Owens painstakingly rearranged his work schedule, taking vacation time during the season in order to coach.
“I can’t deny there’s an interest there. I really love the coaching. The issue is can I juggle the work? I spend 56-hour weeks at the fire department and it’s real tough to do anything that intense and get off work,” Owens said.
Owens’ knowledge of the game and ability to get the most out of each player characterized his state title team. No one picked them to win it all – not even Owens.
“I had stronger teams. At the beginning of that season I realized I had a solid group, but it didn’t do things that were special. As it turned out, I was wrong. It must have been great coaching,” Owens kidded. “It was the best defensive team I’ve had. I had seven seniors who played a lot, and at the high school level I really believe you win with maturity.”
It just so happens STHS will be loaded with maturity in 1998: The reigning league MVP Adrian Hankoff returns as do veteran stars Alicia Lambert, Chantelle Young and Courtney Wilson. They just need the right orchestrator.
Owens’ worth hasn’t been lost on Viking parents and other coaches, who have made it known that he’s the man for the job.
“I think Rich Owens is one of the best coaches this town has ever had,” said Whittell volleyball coach Dan McLaughlin, who took over for Owens in 1995 after working with him for one season. “I learned so much from him the one year I worked under him I can’t go on enough. He taught me the transition I had to make from a player to a teacher and what it takes.
“He’s got such an excellent temperament. He adds to volleyball immeasurably.”
Now it’s up to Owens. If I was a parent of a STHS volleyball player, I’d find a coaching application and get into Owens’ hands as soon as possible. While you’re at it, bring along a pen!
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