As a transplant to central Oregon, new Crook County girls basketball coach Bob Boback is adjusting to more than just the abundant sunshine.
Boback, 64, is finding life much simpler in Prineville than in the Puget Sound area, where he retired two years ago after a long career as a waterfront Teamster in Tacoma.
“One of the reasons I retired at 62 is I didn't want to waste my life in traffic,” Boback said. “Coming down here, it's just so cool not to have to plan 45 minutes ahead to get some place in 10 minutes.”
It took a random set of circumstances for Boback – who coached the Gig Harbor girls to 240 wins and five big-school state tournament appearances in 17 seasons (1998-2015) – to land in Prineville. In short, his daughter's family was moving to the area, and his wife didn't want to be too far from their grandchildren.
“I said, 'Well, I'm retired, I don't care, I can go anywhere,'” Boback said.
Then he found out that 5A Crook County was looking for a girls coach after Heidi Lea resigned after four seasons. Boback hadn't coached a high school team for five years, but decided to apply, provided his family would write his resume and fill out the job application.
After assisting with a middle-school girls team last season, he knew he had some gas in the tank.
“I'm 64 years old, but I'm still kind of immature,” Boback said. “I've got 14 grandkids, and I hang out with kids more than the adults, anyway.”
Crook County, which has a .234 winning percentage since its last winning season in 2011-12, was looking for a spark. Athletic director Rob Bonner said Boback's experience is just what the team needs.
“Just a veteran coach,” Bonner said. “There just comes a toolbox of knowledge with having lived through all those experiences. The thing that kind of put Bob out front was just his calm demeanor, his relationships with athletes. The girls are really enjoying him.”
After taking the job, it took Boback only four days to sell his house in Fircrest. He moved to Prineville on Aug. 28 and has bought a house.
“I've kind of been a rain guy all my life, but I like this climate,” he said. “The community is wonderful. I love it down here.”
He has been conducting limited open-gym workouts with players twice a week. His first order of business is changing their mindset. Crook County has averaged 3.6 wins per season in the last five years, its 6-15 record last season the best during that span.
“This situation here is kind of similar to 22 years ago when I first got hired at Gig Harbor,” Boback said. “A lot of the players weren't sure if they were going to play because they were so frustrated with how the season before went. They had a pretty good nucleus coming back, but they had a bunch of athletes who for some reason didn't think they could win.”
He knew nothing about the talent in the area when he arrived, but came away pleasantly surprised after the Cowgirls' first workout.
“I told the girls the first night, 'I'm really impressed. Don't take this wrong, but you guys are a lot better than I thought you were going to be,'” Boback said. “I said, 'We're going to win.' It was kind of the same thing at Gig Harbor when I came in. They just didn't think about winning that much.”
Official practices are scheduled to begin Dec. 28, pending state health guidance.
“Unless the talent around here is tremendous, I've got to think we'll be able to compete with anybody,” said Boback, who began his coaching career with four years as a boys assistant at Thomas Jefferson of Federal Way, his alma mater.
Boback's teams at Gig Harbor were known for their array of defenses. Their full-court press was particularly effective with Washington's 30-second shot clock, which won't be a factor in Oregon.
“I love the shot clock,” Boback said. “They called me the gimmick man. I played so many different gimmick zones. For my teams, it was almost like playing hockey. We could change our defense on the fly.”
Crook County returns most of its starting lineup from last season. Bonner believes it's just a matter of the Cowgirls getting pointed in the right direction.
“Our girls have taken their lumps,” Bonner said. “The thing with these ladies is their willingness to try and their hard work. Great student-athletes. They're just a joy to be around. The last couple years they definitely competed.”