LINGLE – A familiar face will be returning to the sidelines next winter when the Lingle-Fort Laramie Dogger basketball team takes to the court.
This will be Chris Cook’s second stint as head coach of the Dogger program, who was the head coach from 2004-2009.
It was at that time, Cook stepped away so he could focus on his boys’ baseball teams.
Cook returned to the sideline helping Tim Smock at the middle school level before Steve Zimmerman approached him about also helping out at the high school level.
“I appreciated getting to work with Mr. Zimmerman. I learned a lot from him. He’s one of the smartest guys I know about basketball, if not the smartest,” Cook said. “Every day you went to the gym and you learned something new because he was so smart.”
Cook was open to helping coach at both levels.
“The door was open to do both levels,” Cook said. “Honestly, I was good with that, but when Mr. Zimmerman retired and the position was open, I just felt like I needed to apply.”
Cook has had his hand in the current high school team since they were at an early age.
“We started a youth program when Brady (Cook) was a second grader and last year’s freshmen were third graders,” Cook said. “It’s a great group of kids that I know through my son, but that I’ve been able to help growing up.”
As a result, it made him feel like he needed to at least apply for the position.
He ended up getting the job.
The No. 1 thing he learned from his experience the first time is – teach them the fundamentals early on.
“You have to teach them when they are young,” Cook said. “Even when they got into middle school, the season is so short and the practice times are so small, you can’t start at that point. One thing he learned from his first experience as a head coach. We had some good kids in Lingle but also some who had never played basketball. When you get to the freshman level, that’s not the time to start teaching at square one.”
Last season the Doggers reached the state tournament with a 12-15 record. However, this season will be slightly different as they will be moving up from Class 1A to 2A.
“It’s another level, and it’s going to be a challenge,” Cook said. “We are going to keep working at it. The boys are up to it. They are putting time in the gym over the summer.
“We’ll be the small guy on the block again,” Cook added. “If you look at the ADM (Average Daily Membership) numbers, we are in the 90s and the top 2A schools are in the 220s. It’s going to have to be execution and doing things correctly to get there.”
Cook said Pine Bluffs, the defending 2A state champions, is the level the Doggers are striving to reach as they transition to 2A.
“This group, and through the middle school years, they were really successful,” Cook said. “Now, at the high school level, the issue is, they are good and they are young, but they are playing against older men from the other teams. It’s good they get to play, but it’s also bad we don’t have a lot of upper classmen to help them along the way.”
Cook added they are up to the challenge.
“They will do whatever they can, and they will only get better as it goes,” he said. “We’ve got a good core of 10-12 players who know how to play and are athletic.”