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Schmerbach steps down at Crater

CENTRAL POINT — Like many thrust into different realities this past year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Crater boys basketball coach Chris Schmerbach rediscovered passions in his life beyond the hardwood court.

With that in mind, Schmerbach stepped down as head coach this week, citing a number of factors that ultimately led to his decision after six seasons at Crater.

“The main thing is the time and commitment and energy that it took to run this thing for six years really just kind of wore me down, to be honest,” said Schmerbach, 44. “The opportunity cost me a chance to do some other things, with my family especially being one of them, and I’m good at some things besides basketball and haven’t done those things in quite a while.”

After the 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns while the Comets were prepping for a Class 5A state semifinals game, Schmerbach and company were unable to get back onto the court for several months.

In that down time, Schmerbach said he was able to re-evaluate several areas of his life.

“Having COVID come down forced me into not being involved in basketball,” said the coach, “and the energy and passion I had was directed into other places and opened my eyes that I have other goals in life that I want to accomplish that don’t involve the game.”

Beyond the ability to spend more time with his wife of 22 years Kristi and their three daughters Emma, Tatum and Sarah, Schmerbach rediscovered his passion for real estate and construction that began when he was a child.

“I’ve done construction my whole life — my dad owns a construction company — and that whole thing got started for me as a young kid,” he said. “I’m really passionate about fixing houses, just like I am with building teams. Creating something with my hands is a passion I’ve had since I was a kid so I still have a lot of things I’ll be working on, it’s just a different passion and some new goals that I’m working on.”

It was Schmerbach’s goal when he took over in 2015 to build Crater into one of the best boys basketball programs in the state. Under his guidance, the Comets advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in program history, initially in 2018 as well as 2020.

Over the past three seasons, Crater finished fifth and fourth at state and were peaking a year ago when all was halted prior to the semifinal round.

In all, Crater posted an 89-53 record under Schmerbach.

“It’s been a good run and I’m really proud of what I was part of,” said Schmerbach. “I wasn’t the reason it happened, I was part of it, because we’ve had really great players and really great coaches and an administration that really supported me with crazy ideas of going to Hawaii and playing in these showcases and making it whatever I wanted it to be.”

Schmerbach will coach the Comets in Monday’s Southern Oregon Conference tournament opener against Grants Pass for the final time and then turn the remainder of the tournament over to assistant coach Bryan Scott due to a previously planned anniversary trip to Hawaii.

Crater athletic director David Heard said Friday that the position has already been posted and it was his hope to act quickly in finding a replacement.

Heard, having himself enjoyed two successful runs as girls basketball coach at Crater, said he understood Schmerbach’s decision and appreciated all that the coach had given to the school and the program in his six years.

When Schmerbach took control of the Comets, he was the program’s sixth boys basketball coach in eight seasons and brought the stability and leadership that Heard and Crater had sought when filling the position.

Prior to joining the Comets, Schmerbach ran the Marist High boys basketball program in Eugene from 2005-08, compiling a 56-29 record with a 4A state championship in 2008 and fifth-place finish in the 3A tourney in 2006.

Schmerbach said he initially planned to be done with basketball after leaving Marist, but that didn’t last long, with him joining Brian McDermott’s staff at Southern Oregon University as an assistant coach within a year. Schmerbach, a 1995 Klamath Union graduate, spent six seasons at SOU before joining Crater.

“When I was at Marist, people said (our success) was because of the resources and players you had,” said Schmerbach, “so I wanted to try to take on a program that wasn’t necessarily known for basketball and create something special.”

Little did Schmerbach know at the time what level of players would soon find themselves in a Crater uniform, including state players of the year Kiefer Edwards and Nate Bittle and a host of players who worked diligently to make the Comet program the best that it could be.

“I was very fortunate and lucky to run into some of the talent that we ran into right away,” said Schmerbach. “I didn’t know it was going to happen that fast, but when you get guys like Kiefer Edwards and obviously we all know what Nate has developed into, that happens really quickly. And those are only two, we had so many auxiliary players who really worked and developed into some of the best players I’ve ever had.”

Schmerbach, who is also a physical education teacher at Scenic Middle School, said the decision wasn’t an easy one but it definitely seemed to be the right one at this time.

“I’m not saying I’ll never coach again,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t love basketball, because I do. I really, really love basketball, but the amount of time and work and pressure running that program kind of took some of that away from me. I didn’t love it as much.”

“I love winning and I definitely love where we took the program and being involved in all that,” added Schmerbach, “and even this year I really enjoyed it, just in a different way, but it’s just time to shift into other things.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Crater head coach Chris Schmerbach talks to an official during the Class 5A state third-place contest at Gill Coliseum in 2018. [MARK YLEN/ALBANY DEMOCRAT-HERALD]