Steamboat Springs First-year Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball coach Mack Spitellie laughed when he said one of the hardest parts of his new gig is coaching his own daughter, a senior on the Sailors' roster.
He laughed, but he’s not necessarily kidding. He’s no stranger to coaching this Sailors group — especially his daughter, Ashley, who is one of the seniors the elder Spitellie has helped coach since the girls were in seventh grade.
“Basically, the only girls I’ve made cry as a coach are my daughters, so that’s how it’s hard,” Spitellie said. “It’s already happened this year.”
While trying to avoid bringing his 2013-14 group to tears, Spitellie is slowly but surely figuring out his role as Steamboat’s head man. Coaching is not foreign to Spitellie. Being head coach of a varsity squad that has aspirations of going deep into the state playoffs is new, however.
The job opened last year when former coach John Ameen retired after six years, not long after Steamboat’s season ended in the second round of the 4A state playoffs. Spitellie, who always knew he wanted the job, jumped on the vacancy. Ameen and Spitellie had worked together for years as a coaching duo, and Spitellie praised Ameen for what he learned, especially the former coach's knowledge of the game.
But there are noticeable differences between the two coaches.
“It’s completely different,” senior Maggie Crouch said. “Ameen was really strict on everything, and Mack is a lot more laid back. Mack's like, 'Do what you have to do to get open, run the ball.' He wants to run and play in transition all the time.”
But that’s not to say Spitellie is overly relaxed in practice. There’s yelling and threats of suicide sprints if the girls get down on themselves for missing a shot. He’s intense, but nothing is taken personally because of a bond that was forged back on the seventh-grade hardwood.
“All these seniors, when you’ve coached them through their whole lives, it’s hard and fun in the same sentence,” Spitellie said with a grin. “They’re a pain because they know me, and I’m a pain because I know them.”
Just about everything in Spitellie’s new role is familiar in some fashion — everything besides the stacks of paperwork that come along with being head coach.
The days are long, too. Spitellie runs a construction company in town, so between work and practice — and eventually games and tournaments — a day off is rare.
He’s OK with that.
“It makes for long days, but I love it so far,” Spitellie said. “It’s hard, but I love it."
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll
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