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Denker done as South's girls basketball coach.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

Jim Denker has resigned as South Eugene girls basketball coach after a quarter-century on the job that included a pair of state titles.

Denker was hired in 1982 and led the Axemen to the Class 4A championship in 1987 and 1999. South Eugene placed sixth at state in 2006 and finished tied for fourth in the Southwest Conference last year to reach the 6A playoffs.

"We have a quality group of freshmen and eighth-graders coming in, so it is a good time to move on and step aside for someone else," Denker said. "Over the years our players and coaches have attempted to maintain a certain level of performance on and off the court, and I think we have achieved a lot."

Denker, 59, has coached a variety of sports during his career but had his greatest success on the basketball court at South.

"I enjoyed my many years at South Eugene in football, golf and girls basketball, and I want to thank all the athletes, parents and boosters with whom we have developed long-lasting friendships," he said.

Denker helped the Axemen win five girls basketball trophies at state - first place in 1987 and 1999, fourth in 1986 and 1998, and sixth in 2006. He had 18 players who went on to play Division I basketball.

South Eugene defeated Oregon City 44-42 in the 1987 title game to finish the season 25-1. In 1999, the Axemen were ranked No. 1 when they defeated a powerful Westview team that featured 6-foot-5 Kara Braxton 62-59 in the semifinals and then beat St. Mary's 54-39 for the title to finish the season 27-1.

The Oregon School Activities Association started sanctioning girls basketball in 1976, and Denker has seen girls basketball grow in the state during his time on the bench.

"When I started we had the big ball, we used the boys ball," he said. "I think it was about 1987 when we went to a smaller ball, and that changed the game quite a bit. I think it stretched the floor because before that when teams got pressed, not a lot of kids could handle the ball as well or throw the overhead pass. Now the press is not quite as effective, it became more of a halfcourt game. Then the three-point shot came along, and it opened things up even more."

Denker started his coaching career at Harper High School in 1971 by coaching eight-man football, volleyball, boys basketball, and track and field. He moved on to North Douglas and was the head football coach and assistant in baseball and boys basketball for five seasons. Denker coached football and wrestling at his alma mater, Crow, for one season before being hired at Monroe Middle School and serving as an assistant football coach at North Eugene.

He was hired as head football coach at South Eugene in the fall of 1982 and soon found himself on the basketball court as well.

"They needed somebody to take over the summer basketball program, and I said I would do it since I had that background," he said. "They did not hire a girls coach, and I got put in that slot."

Denker also had success as a football coach, leading South into the playoffs during each of his first six seasons from 1982-87. South reached the state quarterfinals during his first season as coach in 1982.

"That first year was gratifying because we had a bunch of hard-working, dedicated kids and we made a good run in the playoffs to get some rewards," Denker said. "In the first round we played Beaverton and we scored with a minute to go to win (24-18), that one stands out."

Denker also coached girls golf at South for four seasons in the late 1980s. Denker resigned as football coach in 1989 and became athletic director at South. He spent 14 years in that position and was the district athletic director for 12 years before resigning in 2002.

Denker stayed on five more seasons as girls basketball coach, and he said he is not yet ready to say he is done coaching.

"I think this is a resignation, not a retirement," he said. "I will leave those options open. When you are 59, you can pick and choose. I found out there is life afterwards in other sports. I've got six grandkids now to keep me busy."
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Title Annotation:Sports; The veteran coach resigns after leading the Axemen to two state championships
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 16, 2007
Previous Article:WORK AND PROGRESS.
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