The Covington News chose Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen as our Standout Coach of the Year, primarily because of how he guided a nationally ranked Rams squad that was just a couple of ball bounces away from an undefeated regular season. Newton’s season ended in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament’s Elite Eight round, losing to eventual state champion Tift County.
Our Sports Intern, Tyler Williams took some time to talk with Rasmussen, asking him to reflect on the season and look ahead to the next.
The Covington News: First off, Coach, how does it feel for you to be selected for the honors you’ve been given?
Rasmussen: “I really appreciate the recognition, and I think it’s just indicative of our team’s success. Without the team’s success, none of the individual accolades would happen or mean anything. We’ve seen three guys just make the all-state team, four guys make the all region team. We had another great season and we’re really proud of the entire team. In particular to the coaching award, I couldn’t do that without my staff. I’ve got three great assistants. Taylor Jackson, Marcus Taylor and Bobby Sims are all part of that recognition and all important to our team’s success.”
TCN: Coming into this season, what was your biggest goal for yourself and the team?
Rasmussen: “Last year, we won the region championship coming into the Final Four, and we thought that maybe we could do that and more this year. We accomplished part of that this year. Last year we were 26-5 and this year we were 28-2, so in some regards we had a better year this year. We won back-to-back region championships. This year we did it in Class AAAAAAA and the first time in Region 8-AAAAAAA which I think was harder, and more of an accomplish. We also played a much tougher schedule this year. I think we played 11 or 12 ranked teams and played in some very high profile events and still went 28-2. Also, for the third year in a row we got beat by the eventual state champion. And, I’ll tell you, that was the hardest bracket I’ve seen in my 19 years at Newton. We would’ve had to beat four top five teams in row to win a state championship. But even though we were disappointed to not get further in state, it was still a great run and still a great year.”
TCN: What would you say was the biggest positive you’ll take away from this season?
Rasmussen: “Just the accomplishments, the team work, all those lessons that you learn that are really more important than the final results. I hope the young men under our tutelage learned lessons about hard work, discipline, focus and things that will make them better in coming seasons, particularly for our seven seniors. All of them have been offered a scholarship of some kind. Three have Division I offers, two will play football in college. So proud of that, and I think we’ve helped them see what it’s gonna take to be successful in college. So I hope they’ll take those things they learned. to the next level.
“It was an extremely exciting team to watch, and I think the energy of our crowd, especially in playoff games, was a reflection of how fun and exciting it was to coach this team. We’ve never had that kind of guard play here before, and I’m pretty sure we set a record for dunks in a season. They were just so explosive. I’ll say that we were probably the best offensive team in the state, and Tift County was the best defensive team. I told someone else that if Tift can play like they did against us the rest of the tournament, they’ll win the state championship. And they did. They held McEachern to 49 points and beat Norcross in the championship game. So we had a great year, and I’ve got no regrets.”
TCN: What are you most looking forward to as you look ahead to next season?
Rasmussen: “We’ve got a great sophomore group returning, with several guys who contributed off the bench. And although I don’t think they’ll be as explosive, I think that they’ll be a really hard working group with great attitudes and they’ll be enjoyable to coach. I’m looking forward to the newness of it. There will be a lot of opportunities for fans to see younger kids step up and see their time to shine.”