Sierra Sun sports editor
Keith Crawford says he works well with children, and that’s because he has plenty of practice.
Six teenage boys live in Crawford’s Reno home, and 16 teenage boys play on his Truckee Wolverines varsity basketball team.
“I’m great with kids,” said Crawford, 32, who is 2-2 in his first year as a varsity basketball head coach. “I’m a foster parent, so I have to deal with kids on a 24-hour basis. There’s not a problem that I don’t think I can handle when it comes to kids.”
Basketball has been in his life as long as he can remember, Crawford said, but he and his wife Cynthia recently decided to take on the role of foster parents about nine months ago. Currently, six 15-year-old boys live in the Crawford home, five of which are foster children.
“It’s an adjustment,” he said, “but if I can inspire someone’s life and three or four years from now someone can come back to me and say, ‘Keith, you helped me out,’ then I’m all for it.”
Crawford said the duty of coach and father are analogous.
“They kind of go hand-in-hand because you have to teach and discipline in both because you want your guys to pick up on what you teach,” he said. “Here in the foster home, you give kids chores to do, and if they don’t get it done, they lose their free time. On the court, you want the players to do what you tell them, but they don’t always do it.”
Before he took the job at Truckee, he was an assistant coach for the past three years ” two of those at Hug High School and one at Sparks High School. In addition, he was a coach at Nevada Basketball Academy for three years. Through the game of basketball, he has blended in his appreciation for tutoring children.
“Basketball is just a tool,” he said. “I’m good with kids, so why not do something I’m good at also ” and that’s coaching basketball.”
For the most part, Crawford’s basketball career has been synonymous with success. Originally from Huntsville, Texas, about 45 miles north of Houston, he played three years of high school basketball, including two years of varsity. In his senior year, the team went to the state playoffs and lost in the second round.
Crawford moved to Reno in 1995 and played one season of basketball at Feather River College. The year Crawford came to Feather River as a player, the team posted a 3-26 record. He decided he preferred teaching to playing.
“I just decided that I needed to go in another direction,” he said. “My heart wasn’t into playing anymore.”
With the help of Crawford’s recruiting, by 1996 the program saw a dramatic turnaround. He continued to coach there until 1998.
“During those three years, we had four All-State basketball players, we had five guys go on to play Division II, and we had three consecutive 20-win seasons,” Crawford said.
In Crawford’s first season at Hug (2001-02), the Hawks won 21 games and were the Northern 4A zone champions.
“The bottom line is, when you coach any sport, the main thing that keeps everyone happy is winning,” he said. “That’s what I want to instill in the Truckee basketball program, a winning attitude.”
So far, Crawford has settled in nicely at Truckee, hoping to turn around the Truckee program ” which finished eighth in the Northern 3A a season ago ” much like he did at Feather River College. Crawford is the third Wolverines head coach in three years. He realizes the importance of coaching durability to high school programs, but he said he can’t look too far down the road.
“I’m thinking long-term, but I’m a realist,” he said. “Realistically speaking, you have to take it year-to-year. I can’t tell you what I want to do next year because I have to deal with what’s going on this year.”
Just like his philosophy as it relates to his six children, Crawford cares about his players like they are his own sons. He considers himself a mentor just as much as he is a coach.
“I want what’s best for these guys,” he said. “After they’re done with Truckee High School (sports), I hope what they get from coach Keith is that they become a better person in life. I try to teach life skills. It’s not just about basketball.”