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Hofmeister returns as head coach at Forest Grove

prep basketball -- After three years away from coaching, Doug Hofmeister returns to take over a flagging Forest Grove program

After three years away from the coaching spotlight, Doug Hofmeister is returning to the sidelines and hoping to bring the Forest Grove boys basketball program back to prominence.

Under Hofmeister's guidance, Forest Grove won 40 games in four years from 1999-2003, but performance has dipped since he left, reaching an all-time low last season when the Vikings won just one game.

Hofmeister certainly has the credentials to get Forest Grove back on top. With almost 330 victories to his credit in 20-plus seasons as a head coach, Hofmeister ranks in the top 10 among active high school coaches in the state. He also has a state title on his resume after an undefeated season in Iowa in 1985, and he led Hillsboro to a state runner-up finish in 1993. With Hofmeister at the helm, Hillsboro made four state tournament appearances and finished in the top eight in the state three years in a row.

In 2002-03, his last season at Forest Grove, the Vikings went 15-9 to become the third winningest team in school history. Budget cuts caused Hofmeister to lose his teaching position at the high school that spring, and by the time he landed a job at Tom McCall Upper Elementary, he was out as the Vikings' varsity coach.

'I'm excited to be back,' said Hofmeister. 'These kids we have right now, these seniors, they were in fifth grade when I started here, so I've seen them all the way up through the rec leagues. This is an awesome group of kids. I just can't say enough good things about them.'

Although the Vikings went just 1-22 last year, the team graduated six players, so Hofmeister has a fresh crop of youngsters to work with. He's starting by getting the team hooked on summer basketball, where he hopes the players will adjust to a new style of play.

'I like to press and run and be exciting, which is going to be a little different for these kids,' said Hofmeister. 'When I first started I had a hard time getting them to even shoot the ball. They were used to a more ball-control style of offense, but they're starting to get the hang of it.'

Hofmeister said that the team, which will play at the 6A level next year, needs to dedicate itself to improving this summer in order to be competitive in a tough Pac West Conference next season.

'The last couple years I think the kids haven't enjoyed basketball as much, so they've focused on other sports and let basketball go a little bit,' he said. 'In basketball, it's especially important to work on skills and fundamentals. It takes a lot of work to improve as a player.'

This year's team, according to Hofmeister, is similar to the unit he inherited when he first started at Forest Grove back in 1999. That team - featuring a talented senior named Mitch Meeuwsen - went 12-12, but Hofmeister felt it had the talent to be much better.

'I inherited a group of players that I felt, if I could have coached them for four years, we could have made the state tournament,' he said. 'But I was the third coach in three years, and none of the kids played summer ball or worked in the offseason. It's the same place we kind of are now. With all the coaching turnover, no one takes them and plays summer ball, and I think that's really important.'

So far this summer, the Vikings have showed drastic improvement from where the team was as recently as six months ago.

'We played Beaverton (on June 20) and we lost by six,' said Hofmeister. 'All the players, coaches and referees were really impressed with how far we've come and how much we've improved in the last few months.'

So even though the wins have been few and far between since he left the program in 2003, Hofmeister is optimistic that this group of players can help turn things around at Forest Grove.

'The kids are busting their tails,' he said. 'We're going to be awfully young and we're not going to be very big, but these kids will do just about anything to win.

'I feel good about the future as long as we can get these kids to keep playing and dedicate themselves to basketball.'