Over the course of 36 seasons, former Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball coach Wade Mortensen cemented his status as one of the finest Colorado high school basketball coaches of all time.
Now, after conversations with Adams State University’s athletic director and head women’s basketball coach, Mortensen is set to take his talents to the college level, where he will serve as an assistant coach for Adams State’s women’s basketball team.
“The athletic director and coach called me and asked me if I’d be interested in helping out,” Mortensen said. “I haven’t coached the last couple of years, so the opportunity to get into coaching at the next level was intriguing. It should be a higher skill level.”
For Mortensen, the first challenge of coaching the Grizzlies will come in the form of figuring out how to jumpstart a struggling program that finished 2-23 last season and has won just 10 games during the past three years.
After winning 558 high school games while coaching at Creede High School, Sanford High School, San Juan High School (Utah) and Sangre de Cristo High School and M-CHS however, figuring out how to win may not be as difficult as it would seem.
“We are excited about the experience and wisdom that Wade will bring to the program,” said Adams State head coach Larry Joe Hunt in a press release. “He is a man of high character, and there is no doubt that his coaching career speaks for itself. Also, his freshness, ability to teach and game-plan will benefit the program.”
While coaching at M-CHS from 1988 until 2005, Mortensen led his teams to numerous league and District titles and won the Class 4A state championship in 2002.
Mortensen also coached several accomplished players including his son, Marcus Mortensen, who was named Class 4A state player of the year in 2001 and Kirk Archibeque, who has had a successful professional career overseas.
“When I first started (in Cortez), it was a challenge getting a consistent program going from year to year,” Mortensen said. “It took some years to get that consistency going. There are a lot of good people in Cortez and in that area.”
In all, Mortensen, who played for Adams State from 1972 until 1976, has coached 69 all-league players and 25 all-state players. He has also won coach of the year honors on 13 occasions and most recently coached Sangre de Cristo to a 25-1 record and an appearance in the Class 1A state championship in 2015.
Reflecting on his coaching career, Mortensen that while wins and losses will not necessarily be forgotten, the relationships that he built stand out the most.
“The thing that I remember is the relationships that I developed with players and other coaches,” Mortensen said. “Those relationships are what you remember most. You do remember the wins and losses, but when it is all said and done, the relationships are what counted.”