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BREAKING: Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen leaves to take North Oconee job
Rasmussen leaves Newton as second winningest coach in school history behind Ron Bradley
Rick Rasmussen
Newton coach Rick Rasmussen leaves the Rams with 308 career wins after 14 seasons as head coach. -photo by Anthony Banks

The Coach Ras Files 

Former Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen has compiled quite the resume in his 21 years at the school, 14 of which were spent as the program’s helm. 

The Win Column:

-Career record: 308-96.

-Averaged 22 wins per year.

-Reached the 300 career wins mark on January 12 vs. Eastside. 

The Accolades:

-5-time region coach of the year.

-2016 Class AAAAAA Coach of the Year. 

-Selected as head coach of the 2017 GACA State Senior Boys All-Star Game.

-Multiple selections as All-Covington News Coach of the Year. 

The Program (Since 1998 when Rasmussen came on as an assistant):

-7 region championships, including three-peat from 2015-2018.

-4 Final Four appearances).

-17 state-ranked finishes.

The Next Level

-43 Rams have gone on to play college basketball.

-15 Rams have played or are playing Division I ball.

COVINGTON, Ga.. — After 21 seasons pacing the Newton High basketball sidelines, including 14 as head coach, Newton Rams boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen is moving on. 

Rasmussen will take over head coaching duties at North Oconee in Bogart, Georgia. He broke the news to his Newton team Tuesday morning, and shared an official statement detailing his departure via Twitter. 

“After much prayer and consideration, my family and I are excited to announce that I have accepted the job of head boys’ basketball coach at North Oconee High School beginning in the 2019-20 season,” Rasmussen wrote. “And we look forward to this new stage in my coaching career.

Rasmussen leaves Newton as the second all-time winningest coach in school history, behind only the legendary Ron Bradley and his 500 career wins during his tenure at the school. Rasmussen broke the 300 career wins mark this past season when Newton defeated crosstown rival Eastside 74-65 on January 12, and finished with 308 wins in his 14-year tenure.

Under Rasmussen’s guidance, Newton has won five region championships, including two back-to-back stints — during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and the 2017-17, 2018-18 seasons. In addition, Newton’s reached the playoffs the last six consecutive seasons and have made three Final Four appearances and six Elite Eight showings. 

A plethora of players have gone on to play college basketball across all divisions, 43 to be exact, with 15 Division I performers including several recent notables such as current Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans, UNC-Greensboro standout Isaiah Miller and former Jacksonville University star J.D. Notae. 

Others include Stephen Croone who played for Furman and finished his career as the No. 5 scorer in school history, and Derrick Henry who played at Winthrop and The Citadel. 

Newton principal Shannon Buff issued out a statement on behalf of the school, thanking Rasmussen for his service to the program. 

"We appreciate all that Coach Ras has done for Newton High School and the NHS basketball program," the statement read. "The search for a new head basketball coach will begin soon, and we look forward to finding someone who can continue our legacy of excellence."

Rasmussen is no stranger to the Oconee County area. Upon moving to Georgia from his native Washington to pursue a master’s degree at UGA, Rasmussen was with family in Oconee County. Two years ago, Rasmussen and family moved to Oconee County to be closer to family again. The move to North Oconee gives Rasmussen the chance to remain closer to them.

The familiarity will be comforting, but the task of turning the Titans into a winner could be daunting.

Rasmussen will take over a North Oconee program that has struggled in recent seasons, including the last two where the Titans have a combined 7-46 record under former coach David Gascho. It’s been at least eight seasons since North Oconee has finished with a winning record. 

“It’s a new stage in my coaching career, and I’m really excited about it,” Rasmussen said. “I just feel the time is right, and God is leading me to this change. It’s really hard to believe, but it’s here.”

Rasmussen expressed his gratitude to the Newton High faculty and staff for the 21 years he’s been at the school, and says he has no plans to cut ties with the multiple relationships he’s fostered over the years. 

“I still plan to be here to orchestrate the Tyrease (Brown) and Tre (Clark) on April 15, and whenever Armani decides, too,” he said. 

Due to Newton’s winning ways even before Rasmussen took the helm Rams athletic director Vincent Byams said he knows he has to find a coach who’s not a novice. 

“We’re definitely going to be looking for someone who has experience and who has been successful,” Byams said. “I want someone who has done this before.” 

Whoever Newton’s new coach will be will inherit a roster that may need a little rebuilding. Seven seniors will depart in May by way of graduation, including three Division I caliber performers. Tre Clark and Tyrease Brown have signed with VCU and Fort Valley State respectively, while 6-foot-7 power forward Armani Harris is undecided, but currently has four D-1 offers. 

Junior combo guard Shawn Smith will likely return as the team’s go-to player and guys like Max Calloway and Doug Moore could emerge. 

Newton finished the 2018-19 season as Region 8-AAAAAAA runners up after losing to Grayson in the region championship game. The Rams bowed out of the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state tournament after a 69-57 loss to Meadowcreek. 

Rasmussen is now hoping that some of that good fortune over the last two decades will follow him to his new program. 

“I’m humbled and blessed to have been part of the great tradition of Newton basketball,” he said. “And now I’m looking forward to the challenge of building something special at North Oconee.”