Fred Heisel takes the helm as Glenwood High boys hoops coach
Cory Hitchcock’s resignation from the Glenwood Springs Demons’ boys basketball program surprised quite a few people in the community, but sometimes change can lead to some good, even if there’s not that much change.
Following Hitchcock’s resignation to take the women’s basketball head coaching job at the University of Southwest in New Mexico on Aug. 30, the Glenwood program was in dire need of a new leader to step in and shepherd a strong program forward.
Enter Fred Heisel, a 1988 graduate from Glenwood Springs High School, and most recently the head coach of the Glenwood Springs Middle School program.
Throughout the hiring process for the next Glenwood head coach, the goal was always to hire someone who was the best fit for the current group of kids right now. Heisel checked all of the boxes necessary, having been a Glenwood graduate, while also being familiar with members of the varsity program after coaching them in middle school.
After a lengthy search, GSHS Athletic Director Craig Denney and the hiring committee voted to hire Heisel on Oct. 5.
“When they told me, of course I was really excited,” Heisel said. “It’s an honor to coach this program, but I also understood all the work that Cory and the boys have put in the past. I’ve coached most of them before, and I’ve been around the program enough that the relationship piece was easier for me than it would have been for first-year coaches.”
Heisel related it to the time his twins, who are now 13 years old, were born.
“Of course, you’re excited and happy, but you’re also overwhelmed,” he said. “That’s how it feels right now, but I’m very grateful I have the job and excited that I do. I put a lot of importance on the job and want to give this program my all.”
Heisel said he believes the work he did at the middle school level and the relationships he built with the kids in that program played a big role for him to follow that group of students to the high-school level.
“After Cory left, I felt I owed it to those kids to continue it. I was shocked when I heard Cory was leaving, but then I asked the question, ‘what about those kids?’ That’s the first thing that I really thought of, and that compelled me to go for the position. I believed in what Cory was doing with these boys, and I want to make sure that continues.”
Basketball has played a big role in Heisel’s life, dating back to his high school days playing under the legendary Bob Chavez at Glenwood Springs High.
During Heisel’s playing days, Chavez had such a profound impact on him that it later led to the Glenwood graduate getting into teaching and coaching. Aside from Chavez’s impact, having twin sons also pushed Heisel in the direction of coaching, especially after his two sons showed an interest in basketball.
“I was lucky to play here when Bob Chavez was coaching, and I was lucky to play here when the school and the program was a more significant part of the community,” Heisel said. “That’s not a knock on Glenwood now; it was smaller then and it was a simpler time.
“Going to football or basketball games was a common form of entertainment in the community. Playing under Chavez and having him coaching me was the reason I got into teaching in the first place; He had such a profound impact on me. Knowing how impactful an adult can be on kids is big for me.”
That impact is part of Heisel’s coaching philosophy. Aside from wins and losses, Heisel hopes to teach his players about success outside of sports in hopes of setting them up properly for the real world.
Sure, Glenwood should vie for a third straight 4A Western Slope League championship with the current core of players, but Heisel wants to make more of an impact than wins, losses, and hardware.
“The primary thing that basketball teaches is hard work leads to success,” Heisel said. “It’s almost a direct equation; you get out what you put in. Basketball is so skill dependent; it’s a good way to teach that work equals success. We’re in a tough classification, so we’re going to have to work harder than other programs to reach the state level that we want to.”
Heisel noted that many of the Front Range programs have opportunities that Glenwood doesn’t have.
“So, I want to teach these kids here that the more work you put in — whether that’s in your driveway, on the blacktop, or in the gym — the more successful you’ll be in the end.”
Heisel has the Demons off to a strong start in his first season at the helm. Glenwood sits at 3-3 on the season. Glenwood returns to action Dec. 13 on the road at the Longmont tournament before the holiday break.
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