By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre High head boys basketball coach Mark West has decided to step down from the position after three seasons at the Blue Pony helm.
West guided the 2004 Blue Ponies to an 18-7 overall record this past winter. Havre captured the Central A divisional championship in Butte and also brought home the third- place trophy from the Class A state tournament in Belgrade.
"The main reason that I decided to do this now is time," he said. "Coaching two sports basically takes up an entire year and it is very demanding.
"My daughters have two years of school left and this will enable me to get to spend more time watching them and just being with my family."
West is also the co-head coach of the Havre High track team, so he will still be a very integral part of Havre High sports. But, he said, giving up basketball will allow him to devote more of his time to his family.
"You have to really make a year-round commitment to basketball," West said. "These days, in order to be competitive and build a successful program, you have to work at it all summer. You have to open the gym and go to summer tournaments.
"I am at a point right now where I would prefer to devote that extra time to my family and turn this over to someone who will be able to devote their time to that type of commitment."
While West feels confident that the time was right to make the change, the decision to do so did not come easily. Havre will return a solid nucleus of players from the 2004 team and has several up-and-comers from the junior varsity squad.
"The toughest part is the kids," he said. "We have spent a lot of time together and they have worked so hard to build this program into a winner.
"Winning a state championship has always been the primary goal and it is what we have all been committed to the last few years. It is pretty hard to not stay and try to see all of that work and progress through with those kids."
West has been the head coach at HHS for each of the last three years. He compiled an overall record of 35-33. In his first year, the Ponies struggled, going 6-16. In 2003, Havre went 11-10 but managed to win the Central A regular season title.
His last season was by far his most successful, which made the prospect of leaving very difficult. But he said that he knows that the program is still heading in the right direction and he looks forward to watching the Ponies' continued success over the next few years.
"They have some tremendous kids coming back next year," he said. "I think that whoever takes over will have a lot of success, and I am excited about the future for this team."
In all, West has spent the last 13 years coaching basketball. Aside from his stint as head coach, he has also been an assistant in both the HHS boys and girls programs under Bob Lanning and Dennis Murphy. West also spent a season as an assistant coach at MSU-Northern in the late 1980s.
"My experiences coaching basketball have been great," he said. "I have to thank all of the great support I have had from my assistant coaches and the school administration over the years. The support from the community has also been tremendous.
"But I am going to really miss the kids," he added. "I have been fortunate to coach a great group of kids and I am really going to miss that part of it the most."