Skinner back at the helm for Rifle |

Skinner back at the helm for Rifle

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. ” Call him Billy Donovan ” maybe Roger Clemens ” but Rifle High School officials aren’t terribly miffed by Brad Skinner’s indecision.

After all, they’re getting a decent coach back.

Skinner, who in one season as the Bears’ girls basketball coach posted an 18-7 record and took the team to Class 4A’s Great Eight, has opted to return to his former post after his April resignation.

“It just worked out that way,” he said. “I sure enjoyed last year. I had a lot of fun with it. The timing is right for me to stay another year and see where it goes from there.”

It doesn’t hurt that Skinner’s daughter, Alissa, is entering her senior season on the team.

“It’s nice to be able to work with her and spend time with her,” the elder Skinner said. “That’s a positive, and we have a lot of other kids coming back who are talented and wanting to play.”

Rifle Principal Todd Ellis appreciates Skinner stepping up and taking back the coaching gig.

“We’re really happy,” he said. “I think he’s coming in just to fill in. It’s tough to find teachers and it’s tough to find coaches right now, with the cost of living. He felt bad that the girls were left without a coach for the summer.”

Skinner has coached at various levels and as an assistant in the Garfield School District Re-2 for 20 years, but last year was his first at the varsity level.

In a public comment back in April, Skinner said he hoped to enjoy the 2007-08 hoops season from the bleachers.

“I think I am going to enjoy just going to the games, watching and going home just as much as coaching it,” he told the Post Independent back then.

So why the change of heart? Apparently, Skinner’s been weighing the decision for a while.

“Having a little time off away from it made me realize it was something I wanted to do,” he said. “The district has been great about it, both at the high school and the central office. I’ve been talking to those guys a lot about this throughout the spring ” (principal) Todd Ellis, (assistant principal) Damon Wells. They all coached. They’ve been there. … It wasn’t a complete surprise.”

Skinner said his players seemed pleased with the news of his return.

“They were pretty happy for the most part,” he said. “I didn’t talk to them all directly. No one drove by my house and threw tomatoes.”

In the 2006-07 season, the Bears worked to a 15-6 record, earning a No. 5 seed in the state tournament. Rifle knocked off No. 12 D’Evelyn, No. 4 Evergreen and then upset Western Slope League Champion Moffat County on the Bulldogs’ court in overtime in the Sweet 16.

The Bears were finally eliminated by rival Glenwood, who beat the Bears 65-58 to advance to the Final Four. During the regular season, the Bears and Demons met three times, resulting in four overtime periods, dozens of riveting plays and a Rifle victory.

If last year’s run was any indication, Skinner won’t take his coaching responsibilities lightly.

“Brad will do a great job of taking the program,” Ellis said. “He won’t be a lame duck, and the girls respond really well to him.”

Wanting more time with his family ” including his 1-year-old daughter ” and with relocation to the Front Range on the horizon, Tom Taucher is done as Rifle’s head boys and girls soccer coach.

“I just wanted to spend more time with family,” said Taucher, whose move will take him closer to family. “It was a tough decision, absolutely. I’ve invested nine years in a program, with the athletes and the school. It was a really tough decision. At this stage, I would rather give the time to family. When you can’t give as much time to athletes, it’s time to move on.”

Taucher was the second-longest tenured head coach at Rifle, serving nine years as the girls coach and eight years as the boys coach. Only Bears baseball frontman Troy Phillips, who’s put in 13 years at the helm of that program, has been there longer.

With a young child and coaching in his blood, it’ll be no surprise if, in the future, Taucher wields a whistle on the Front Range.

“Oh yeah, this is probably a short-term thing,” he said. “Eventually, as she grows older, I’d consider getting back into coaching.”

Taucher, a Greeley native, has been in the sport since childhood. He played at Greeley Central and briefly at the University of Northern Colorado before breaking his leg twice and ending his collegiate career. He began coaching with the Greeley Bootlegger youth program in his late teens. Before coming to Rifle, Taucher coached soccer in the Seattle area for seven years.

Reflecting on his accomplishments at Rifle, Taucher made clear he’d miss coaching.

“We’ve sent a lot of kids to college and the league titles have been nice,” he said. “I’ll miss the day-to-day operations, being around the kids and being out on the field. That’s what I’ll miss most.”

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