Revered Hoops Coach Tasker Dies
HOBBS, N.M. (AP) _ Ralph Tasker, one of the winningest coaches in the annals of high school coaching, died Monday at his home after a short battle with cancer. He was 80.
Tasker, who turned 80 last Thursday, was fighting pneumonia in his final days, said longtime friend and assistant Don Abbott of Farmington, who drove to the Tasker home Sunday to be with the coach.
``He basically changed the way the game of basketball was played,″ said Abbott, who had known Tasker since he played for him in the mid-1950s.
``He made better coaches out of all his opponents because of his ability to get the best out of them as well as out of his own teams. He is well respected all over _ not only among high school coaches, but college coaches have used some of his innovations,″ Abbott added.
He also produced many collegiate stars, some of whom went on to play professional basketball. Among them were former Kansas star and NBA player Bill Bridges; current Arizona State coach Rob Evans and Evans’ assistant, Tony Benford; Larry Robinson, who was Southwest Conference player of the year at Texas; and Texas Tech star Jeff Taylor.
``He was a wonderful teacher in the classroom as well. I was fortunate enough to have him as a teacher, too. He taught government and history.″
The West Virginia native accepted a coaching position in Lovington after leaving military service in 1946. Three years later, he won his first state championship.
Tasker moved to Hobbs in 1950. By the time he was retired last year by the school board, he had piled up 1,122 victories, 291 losses and 11 state championships. His final team finished third in the New Mexico state tournament, falling a game short of becoming Tasker’s 37th 20-game winner.
His teams were known for an unrelenting full-court press from start to finish and for high-powered offense. His 1970 team averaged 114.6 points a game, a national high school record set without the benefit of the 3-point shot.
Tasker didn’t stay retired long. He came back last season as a volunteer coach with the Hobbs girls team.
``I can’t sit at home. I don’t know how to loaf,″ he said last fall.
The winningest prep coach is Morgan Wootten at DeMatha High School in Washington, D.C., with a record of 1,185-178. Wootten was among the nominees this year for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
This year, Tasker accepted a teaching chair with the College of the Southwest. The class: ``Theories and Practice of Basketball.″
``They called me and wanted to know if I would teach, and they gave me a choice between government or basketball,″ Tasker said in March.
He is survived by his three children, Nancy Tasker Johnson of Dallas, Diane Tasker of Las Cruces, N.M., and Tim Tasker of Lubbock, Texas; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Margaret, died in 1991.
A funeral was tentatively planned for Thursday.