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Larson returns to Badgers basketball



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June 03, 2014 | 04:50 PM
A familiar face is returning as Badger High School basketball coach.

Badger Athletic Director Jim Kluge announced last week that Forrest Larson will take over the job he held from 2003 until 2009. Larson took the 2007-08 team to the state tournament.

“We are excited to have Coach Larson as our head coach,” Kluge said. “He did an outstanding job here for six years and is familiar with the student athletes that will be returning next year. It will be an easy transition for our returning players.”

Larson, a member of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, replaces Darin Lottig who was let go at the beginning of May.

Prior to coming to Lake Geneva, Larson coached at Plum City, Ladysmith and Badger. He won a 2003 state title with Ladysmith and was named state coach of the year.

In a 2011 interview with the Regional News, Larson indicated a return to coaching might be possible some day.

“We’ll see what happens,” Larson said. “Our son lives in northwestern Wisconsin, and our daughter might live in northwestern Wisconsin. We’ll decide in two years.

“It depends on the coaching opportunities. I don’t know if you pickup and move if you’re just going to be a head coach.”

Here are some excerpts from that Q&A with then Sports editor Mike Ramczyk:

RN: Have you always had coaching success?

FL: My first year coaching, I was 0-17. I thought I was going to get fired. The superintendent told me one more year like that, and you’re done. It’s a humbling thing. When I graduated from college, I thought I knew a lot about everything. When you go 0-17, you find out you don’t. If you’re going to be good, it requires a lot more work than you think.

RN: Did you feel any pressure when you started at Badger?

FL: It didn’t go through my mind. Coming off a state title, I thought I knew a lot again. Then, you’re playing Racine St. Cat’s and really good programs, and we struggled for a couple years. But the last two were good.

RN: In 2007-08, you took Badger to state but lost to Madison Memorial. How was that experience?

FL: We were down four in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Merritt and Kevin Wieters had great games. We had our chances. It was fun going through the sectional. We hit 17 threes against Janesville Craig and another 17 against Verona the next night. It was exciting.

RN: You brought the dribble-drive offense to Badger. What is it, and how did you find it?

FL: A guy in California invented the dribble drive. I never used it until Badger. A good friend of mine who coaches in college told me about this California guy. I went to California and watched him practice in 2006. I really didn’t understand it until the next summer when I met with the Benton, Wis. coach. Then, John Calipari (Memphis coach at time) was using the dribble drive. I went down to a clinic in Memphis in fall 2007, and I put two and two together and figured it out. You really spread the floor and drive the ball as hard as you can into the gap. You’re looking to get to the rim or kick it. You are continually driving the ball to the basket. When you get to a certain spot, the other four guys are supposed to move to different spots. You either get a layup, get fouled or shoot a three-pointer.

Everybody must be able to shoot the ball. We were built to run it in 2007-08.

RN: What do you remember most about your time at Badger?

FL: Braden Tice, Jimmy Merritt, the Ambroses, Wieters, Jeff Ecklund. Those guys were pumped up about basketball.

There’s a lot of other really good kids like Chris Lois, Henry Lorenzi and Austin Gaugert. I’m forgetting a lot of others. Jim Kluge is the best AD in the state by far. He does a really good job. (Superintendent Jim) Gottinger is a great guy. They all want to be successful.

RN: Was there any big struggle you had to overcome in your career?

FL: Our first three years at Ladysmith, we were 10-12, 3-17 and 7-15. A lot of people were upset. I’ve never been afraid to take a step back to get two steps ahead. People have looked at the work ethic I demand and wonder if high school kids can do it. I think they can. A lot don’t want to, but the ones that did became pretty successful.

RN: Is there anything you’d do different if you could return to Badger?

FL: I would be down at every elementary school selling our program, highlight tape in hand. If I could do it over, I would be a lot more involved with the youth program. But hindsight is 20-20.

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