POR: Dave Fox March 08, 2009
One sly fox has been coaching since 1981 at Fruita
Dave Fox is one of the enduring faces of coaching in the Grand Valley.
Since 1981, coaches have come and gone at the four area high schools, but one constant has
been Fox coaching some sport at Fruita Monument High School.
“It’s a love of kids and sports in general,” Fox said. “I like being around it, I like the competing and trying to help kids any way I can.”
Fox is currently the head boys basketball coach for the Wildcats but has coached baseball, girls basketball, boys golf, track and been an assistant football coach during his time at the school.
Not only has Fox coached all those different sports, but he’s had success doing it. This past season was Fox’s first losing season in basketball since he began coaching the sport in 1978 on a Navajo Indian reservation in Shiprock, N.M.
After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in physical education and a biology minor, Fox said he learned the most about coaching while on the reservation.
“That was probably the most important time of my life as far as learning how to be a teacher and how to mentor kids,” Fox said. “I had a wonderful time there with some wonderful kids.”
Fox also got his first taste of success as a coach. As an assistant for the football and basketball teams, Fox saw young athletes with more adversity at home than on the field turn a program around.
“It was tough living conditions for kids there, with a lot of alcoholism and single-parent families,” Fox said. “But we were able to get a football program that hadn’t won a game in years and not had a winning record in like 20 years to get into the playoffs in a four-year period. It was quite an accomplishment.”
Fox arrived to Fruita Monument in 1981 but didn’t get his first varsity head coaching job until he took over the girls basketball program in 1986. In a four-year span, Fox got the Wildcats to the state championship twice, winning the whole thing in 1989.
“That is your ultimate in coaching,” Fox said. “That is what you are always trying to do and for one time we were able to put it all together and the rewards were just great.”
Fox’s team in 1989 lost two games and held all three of its opponents to under 50 points during the state tournament.
“That was a culmination of a group of kids that worked very hard,” Fox said. “That year we were just dominant.”
Fox always preached defense and said he approached coaching the girls game the same way he did the boys game.
“When I first took over, I had never coached girls basketball before, so I just coached basketball,” Fox said. “I didn’t know the difference. I tired to press and run and was lucky to have a great group of kids.”
But for Fox being successful in one sport wasn’t enough. He was also an assistant baseball coach for the 1989 squad, which was a state runner-up, and was the head coach of the 1993 group that won the state championship.
“In the early days I think we wanted to win state championships no matter what and we traveled everywhere in most sports,” Fox said. “There were times when we didn’t have the best perspective.”
As a player, baseball was always Fox’s sport growing up, and he even played two years at Colorado Northwestern Junior College before a car accident midway through his first year at Colorado State ended his baseball career. Growing up in Rangely allowed him to dabble in every sport.
“I was better in baseball and football than basketball, but luckily I grew up in a small town and got the chance to play high school basketball,” Fox said. “There has always been a passion for basketball.”
And his passion for basketball continued after giving up the girls job in 1996 to watch his son Andy play with the boys team. After Andy graduated, Fox became an assistant for the boys team until taking over the head coaching job in 2006.
“With basketball you are out in the public eye and you have every Friday night those people in that gym whether it is 100 people or 2,000 people. There is always a lot of excitement and emotions in those games,” Fox said. “And luckily in this valley we have had neat rivals over the years and packed houses and really good atmospheres to play the games in.”
But Fox does more then coach. He teaches anatomy, physiology and biology at Fruita Monument. Getting to interact with a different group of students is something he has always enjoyed.
“I think teaching has been as much fun for me and usually in those classes you have kids who want to be doctors or nurses,” Fox said. “I have really been blessed with some outstanding kids here at Fruita. We have kids who keep the academics and athletics in perspective and know how to value their time and do well at both.”
At 55 years old, Fox is in the twilight of his coaching and teaching career and is two years away from having 35 years of teaching in School District 51. With retirement, Fox faces the fate of many life-long coaches where the question becomes, “What do I do now?”
“I don’t know what I would do if I quit coaching,” Fox said. “But in 33 years of coaching basketball this was my first losing season and it is very humbling. You have to look at it and make sure it is still the right fit for you.”
Either way, Fox said he plans on spending more time with his wife, Sheryl, who works in corporate sales. Fox said Sheryl’s job requires a lot of travel, which could lead to them relocating someday.
As for Fox, his heart never led him anywhere else but a gym, field or classroom at Fruita Monument.
“My family is here and I have developed good friends here in the school system. Most of my best friends are teachers or coaches,” Fox said. “I love the environment here and I never really pursued anything else.”