The Monarch girls basketball team had a season to forget in 2017-18, a roster with a lack of depth and experience clearly showing through despite the efforts of first-year head coach Carlee Lough.
Longtime MoHi coach Gail Hook, who resigned after the 2014-15 season for a variety of personal reasons, saw the downfall from afar and felt it tug at her heartstrings. The program Hook molded back in 1998 when the school first opened looked like one that needed an overhaul after a four-win season.
More importantly for Hook, after three seasons away from high school coaching, she flat out missed the relationships — those ties with players, parents, officials and other coaches that made guiding a group through so many games so fun.
So it is with a renewed energy that Hook will return to the Monarch bench this school year, hoping to get the program back to being one of Colorado's talked-about girls squads.
"When you step away from it all and give yourself some time to reflect back on your legacy or your career, it came back to the fact that I missed the players, missed developing kids into good basketball players and mature women," Hook said Tuesday afternoon in a phone interview. "It just kind of hit me recently, you know?"
Hook has certainly had her fingers on the pulse of the sport while taking the time off from being directly involved on a daily basis. Girls basketball in Colorado has been very successful as far as sending top talent to some of the country's best college programs, but Hook said Tuesday she had a growing concern for the participation numbers in high schools.
It's hard to say what directly accounted for Monarch's numbers the past few seasons, but the Coyotes played with a short bench each of those years including dressing just seven players on varsity the entire 2016-17 season (they still managed a 16-7 record). In comparison, Hook carried 17 players on her last MoHi team.
"It's hard when you have someone new come in, and not only the players but the community have to adjust to it," Hook said. "It was hard for me to see a little bit of what was going on and I certainly don't take anything away from the work of the previous two coaches ... it is hard to come in as a new coach in a new situation.
"For us, we're going to try and get it back on track again and be competitive and have the state tournament as our end-of-season goal. Just do what we need to do to get back to that level. We've got a ways to go, but I'm pleased with the mindset of the girls in the past two weeks in the gym."
With 432 wins since she began her high school coaching career in 1986-87, Hook is the fifth-winningest coach in Colorado girls hoops annals. Her 1991 Centaurus team won a state title, and she has guided three other teams to state championship games (1994 at Centaurus, 2009 and 2012 with Monarch). She also has several years of coaching experience with USA Basketball.