Gail Hook has been on the basketball court as a player or a coach every year since the fifth grade. So spending a season without the game is difficult for her to think about.

But the decision to do so was one the longtime Monarch High girls hoops coach knew she needed to make.

Hook let her players know on Friday that she would be taking a leave of absence from the team for the upcoming season so that she can spend more time with her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease.

Hook said Monday night that her mother, who lives in Northglenn, was diagnosed with the disease eight years ago and has been in steady decline since.

“I want to have some quality time with her,” Hook said. “I owe that to her. And it's really hard to do that during the season.”

Hook, who has led the Coyotes program since its inception in 1998, will remain at Monarch as head of the physical education and health department. She plans to return to her head coaching post next spring.  

“I just kind of have to see how my mother is really,” Hook said. “I don't want to sit there someday and say, ‘I wish I would have spent more time with my mom.'”

Lani Nobles, in her first year as athletic director at Monarch after a long run at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, said she will be posting the girls basketball coaching position and hiring an interim coach for the 2012-13 season.

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Practice begins Nov. 9.

“We're kind of bummed about it, but we totally understand,” said Nobles, who is also in the process of hiring a girls soccer coach. “We'll look at getting the right person in for that one season.”

Hook, 52, is one of Boulder County's coaching legends.  

Her record as a prep head coach is 391-156 — a run that includes her 14 years at Monarch and seven at Centaurus, plus a one-year gig at Aurora's Smoky Hill. She won a state title at Centaurus in 1991, and her Coyotes have been one of the state's powerhouses in recent years.  

Monarch has won 87 games over the past four seasons, finishing as Class 5A state runner-up both last winter and in 2009. The Coyotes also reached the semifinals in 2010 during that span.

In addition to the prep scene, Hook has had gigs as an assistant coach in the WNBA, ABL and collegiate levels, not to mention several assignments with USA Basketball. Hook — who was a member of the University of Maryland's 1978 national runner-up squad before transferring to the University of Colorado — most recently served as an assistant coach this past summer for the U17 national team that won gold at the FIBA World Championships.

Hook will also be taking a break from USA Basketball during her leave from coaching.  

“Of course we're disappointed,” said Jordan Eisler, a senior guard for MHS and a Vermont recruit. “But of course we respect her decision. Any of us in her position would have done the exact same thing.”

Whoever takes over for Hook this season will face a bit of a transition year after the graduation of a senior class that included Division-I recruits Alexus Johnson (Grambling State), Rebecca Richmond (Navy) and Ashton Davis (Air Force) — the latter of whom has since enrolled at the University of Colorado as a regular student after deciding not to attend the Air Force Academy.

Eisler figures to take over as a team leader. Promising junior post player Mae Williams is expected to miss most of the season with a knee injury, and another senior who figured to play a key role, Jac Malcolm-Peck, is spending the year studying abroad.

“I'm strongly encouraging my assistants and one of my former players to apply for it,” Hook said. “I think they will come in and know the system and know what they need to do to be successful.”

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