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Tronsrue honored by fellow coaches

Preston Utley/Vail DailyHuskie's Head Coach Phil Tronsrue directs his player from the sideline while the bench looks on.
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EAGLE-VAIL ” Sure, Battle Mountain girls’ soccer is gearing up for a playoff run and Huskies track and field is prepping for regionals and state.

But it is May. Seniors have senior-itis to the nth degree. Summer is on the brain after a long school year.

Yet Battle Mountain boys’ basketball coach Philip Tronsrue was in the gym Tuesday handing out workout assignments to his players, eagerly awaiting another season. In his mind, it’s only six months until basketball season.



If a coach has earned some time off, it’s Tronsrue. But it never stops for him.

“It can’t. You just have to keep it going,” Tronsrue said. “We have guys excited. We’ve already been doing this for a month, and that’s what it takes. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to duplicate what we did this year. But you know what? We can. It’s always there. We have this opportunity, and that’s got to be our goal.”



And that is just one of the reasons Tronsrue earned the Battle Mountain Coach of the Year Award for 2004-05 from last year’s winner, cross country’s and track’s Rob Parish.

“It was the way the basketball team just galvanized this school. It was such a fantastic season,” Parish said. “Every game, the gym was packed. The student body was so excited about it. It’s a hockey and a ski town and he just didn’t make excuses for anything and got a bunch of athletes to believe that they could have a basketball team.

“I leave track practice at 6 or 7 p.m. and the gym is full of kids in April excited to practice basketball. That’s something he’s created.”



Tronsrue and the Huskies gave The Dog House a lot for which to cheer this year. Following a fall during which Battle Mountain won four league/regional titles and while the school’s perennial winter power, hockey, marched again to the Frozen Four, boys’ basketball ” of all things ” became the talk of the town.

The Huskies roared to a 22-3 record, the school’s first league title in boys’ hoops and the program’s first berth in the Sweet 16 in the state playoffs.

“He’s a great coach,” Huskies center Trent Beckley said. “He’s spent so much time with us. He dedicates his life and his wife (Jodi) is so committed to the team. He spent hours and hours with us over the years. All his hard work paid off.”

“It’s really exciting because when you take a look at all the teams this year and how well we’ve done, (Battle Mountain) has six league champions,” Tronsrue said. “Looking at that and for them to elect me, I’m in great company. It had to be someone.

There were many deserving coaches.”

In March, Tronsrue brought home the 4A Slope Coach of the Year Award. Though undoubtedly deserved, that was a no-brainer.

In his first season in 2002-03, Battle Mountain went 3-18, only qualifying for districts by winning a pig-tail game against Delta to qualify for districts after an 0-12 conference slate. Three seasons later, Battle Mountain went 13-1 in the Slope, clinching the league crown outright on the final night of the regular season.

But in a year when Battle Mountain’s athletic department has collected a school-record six league/regional titles and a state championship in girls’ cross country, there was a lot of competition for this honor.

All Tronsrue’s presenter, Parish, did this year was lead both cross-country teams to their first regional titles. A week later, the ladies picked up the school’s first non-skiing state title since 1992.

“I told him, ‘Rob, I’m surprised you didn’t award it to yourself.'” Huskies athletic director Rich Houghton joked.

“That’s a good dilemma to have,” Parish said. “There were so many great coaches this year.”

That list would certainly include soccer’s David Cope, who won the award in 2003-04. His boys’ team went undefeated in the Slope to capture back-to-back league titles. The team won the most games in the program’s history with a 16-2 mark and went to the state quarters for the first time.

Meanwhile, the girls’ team is 13-1-1 and awaiting its state-playoff draw. All told, Cope’s teams are 29-3-1 this year. No complaints from Cope, however.

“Totally deserving,” he said. “I was in the gym for a lot of those games, and it was so exciting to see the atmosphere and what he created. The record speaks for itself over the last four years as far as turning it around.”

Then there’s volleyball’s Brian Doyon. The spikers made won their first 4A league title and made the state semifinals. (While we do not endorse wagering, the Vail Daily is installing Doyon as the favorite for the award next year.) Hockey’s Gary Defina is not only returning for a second year ” a significant accomplishment in itself ” but does so after taking a very young team to a Metro Conference crown and another trip to the state semifinals.

But winning in basketball at Battle Mountain is no easy feat, and that is why Tronsrue got the nod from Parish. In a sport that has been an afterthought behind hockey and skiing, Tronsrue developed the best basketball team in school history.

Dr. Phil, as he was dubbed by the Battle Mountain student section, had a talent in Drumm, but built around the 6-foot-6 forward. Enter Beckley. At 6-8, the center had the makings of a basketball player, but sorely needed the experience.

“He spent days and days and hours and hours all summer long working with us. That paid off,” Beckley said. “If you’re not going to be the kind of guy who wants to work, he’s not going to waste his time. But if you show the passion and want to get better, he will do everything for you. It all comes down to him and how much he loves the game.”

Beckley matured and the Huskies had their Twin Towers. Tronsrue added to the mix by adding a perimeter game with gifted players like Derek Rush, Josh Ruark, Kyle Leffler and T.J. Montoya. The coach also made roles for the likes of Kenny Brodin, Gustavo Bronfield, and Clark Simmons, and the Huskies became a dynamic bunch.

“He’s hung in there just like his players have,” Drumm said. “He told us just to keep trying. We built a lot of experience and it finally paid off. He’s just devoted to what he does, and I think that inspired a lot of the players.”

And the fans. Battle Mountain basketball became the show this winter. The Huskies packed The Dog House and filled up opposing gyms as the season progressed.

“When you have whackos like Kyle Moore, Tyler Cole, Josh Ball and Walker Loetscher getting everybody energized, that helps,” Tronsrue gratefully joked. “They did a great job. It’s nice to have our own Cameron crazies.”

“It’s about winning. If you generate success, then your program will generate interest,” Cope said. “Sometimes that takes patience and perseverance, and it did in this case. But those guys turned this into a basketball school. People were eagerly anticipating the games. People were talking about the games. It was like being at Duke or North Carolina.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934, or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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