Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/sports/prep/dec03/193505.asp
Coach doesn't change direction
Posted: Dec. 17, 2003
They don't give out trophies for what Forrest Larson wants the Lake Geneva Badger boys basketball team to do.
"We want to be the hardest working team in the state of Wisconsin," said Larson, who is in his first season at Badger. "I don't know why we can't be that. Someone has to be the hardest working team and in the future, I hope it's going to be Badger High School."
From there, Larson believes, everything else - the victories, the championships and the glory - will fall into place.
It's the way Larson built his reputation in 22 years of coaching, the last 15 at Ladysmith in northwestern Wisconsin.
The Lumberjacks became known for their smothering, up-tempo style that dared teams to run with them.
Last season, Larson guided the Lumberjacks to the WIAA Division 3 state title.
He was named state coach of the year by the Journal Sentinel as well.
Larson also coached Ladysmith to a state runner-up finish in 2002.
After reaching the pinnacle, though, Larson was ready to embark on another challenge.
"It was a great 15 years, but it was never going to get any better than it got last year," said Larson, whose record is 284-204. "I was looking for a change, something new."
He was drawn to Badger by its facilities and the tradition set by outgoing coach Jerry Stelse, who won more than 300 games.
Of the 67 applicants for the position, Badger officials found a winner in Larson.
So Forrest Larson brought his wife, Julie, and daughter, Taylor, to Lake Geneva, a community nestled on the southern edge of the state.
It was quite a change for the Larsons - "I was shocked at the cost of housing," he said - but has been a positive one overall.
He enjoys the easy access to college basketball teams in Milwaukee and Madison that was absent in Ladysmith.
But Larson didn't move down here to be a spectator.
Almost immediately, he began to mold the Badgers in his image.
"We're not doing a whole lot of talking at practice," Larson said. "Everything is organized down to the minute, each drill. We want to practice how we play, so there's a lot of transition in practice. There's a lot of pressing, and a lot of running because that's the way we want to play.
"I would hope if someone watched us practice that they would see a lot of intensity."
Badger activities director Jim Kluge stopped by practice recently and came away quite impressed.
"He's an incredible teacher if you just watch him in practice," Kluge said. "I coached for a couple of years before I took this position and I learned more in one practice than I think I did in four or five years of coaching."
The players, meanwhile, have had their ups and downs in adjusting to the radical shift brought by Larson. The Badgers are 3-2 this season.
"Everything is brand new, and we're struggling with the newness yet," he said.
Larson himself is getting used to life in the big-school division and the trials that come with it.
"It's going to be a lot more difficult to make it to Madison for the state tournament at the Division 1 level than it was at Division 3," Larson added.
Still, Larson knows that the Badger program will adopt his signature style soon enough.
After all, it was his former coach at Phillips High School, Barney Slowey, who made him a believer when his natural talent said otherwise.
"When I was a freshman, I was a terrible player," Larson said. "I was the worst player in the program. Coach Slowey really helped me out, and eventually I got better and better and better."
Now at Badger, Larson hopes to put together another successful run using his simple but sound philosophy.
"Hard work is a good thing," Larson said. "Nothing feels better than working hard and being successful."
From the Dec. 18, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel