ARVADA — Mitch Conrad has retired as Ralston Valley’s boys basketball coach after 17 years at the helm of the program.
Conrad coached basketball for 28 years with assistant positions at Standley Lake, Pomona and Arvada West before starting up Ralston Valley’s hoops program when the school opened in 2000. He finished with a 293-133 coaching record at Ralston Valley.
“Twenty-eight years is quite awhile. I wanted to spend more time with my family,” Conrad said. “It’s been a big commitment. Basketball is year-round anymore. That was one of the biggest things.”
Ralston Valley announced this week that Chris Braketa has been hired to replace Conrad. Braketa, a 1999 Pomona graduate, is a math teacher at Ralston Valley and was an assistant coach for a handful of years under Conrad.
“(Braketa) is just an excellent person,” Ralston Valley principal Gavan Goodrich said. “Whenever we are filling (coaching) positions here we want to find the best people. If you can combine a coach with a great teacher it’s great for kids.”
Braketa had his promising playing career cut short by injuries. He missed half of his junior year at Pomona after tearing his ACL the summer before his junior season.
His college career included stops at South Dakota School of Mines and Colorado School of Mines. However, Braketa suffered a pair of fractures in his back twice that eventually ended his playing career.
Besides an assistant for a period under Conrad, Braketa has been doing some coaching for B&B Basketball Academy with his brother-in-laws Michael and Stephen Bahl. Braketa’s sister-in-law is Amy Bahl, who just coached Evergreen’s girls program to the school’s first girls basketball state championship.
“I think it’s a good opportunity now, especially with all the feeder programs I’ve been doing getting to know the kids and coaches,” Braketa said. “The freshman class this year was really good. We’ve got some good sophomores and we’ll have some good senior leadership next year.”
Conrad leaves the program after finishing third in the Class 5A Jeffco League this past season with a 14-11 overall record. The Mustangs won their opening round playoff game before losing to eventual state runner-up George Washington in the second round.
Ralston Valley won six league championships, had four Final 4 appearances, played in two 4A state championship games and won the 2003 4A state title. Conrad was also honored as the Jeffco Boys Coach of the Year.
Conrad will continue to teach at Ralston Valley.
“Hopefully that we always played hard and teams always had to play their best to beat us,” Conrad said when ask how is program would like to be remembered under his guidance. “We always expected teams to play their best against us to make us our best.”
While Conrad had a number of great players over the years, Nick Fazekas and Pierce Hornung are the most memorable. Fazekas was a three-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year at University of Nevada after leading the Mustangs to the state title in 2003.
Fazekas had stays in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. He is currently playing professionally in Japan.
Hornung is another Conrad prodigy that had an outstanding career at the college level. Hornung spent four years at Colorado State University and is currently an assistant coach with CSU’s basketball program.
“Mitch clearly built one of the elite programs in the state,” said Ralston Valley athletic director Jim Hynes, who actually hired Conrad.
Hynes believes Braketa will have a long and successful run as Ralston Valley’s basketball coach as Conrad had during his time.
“He (Braketa) has big shoes to fill, but I think he will do a terrific job,” Goodrich added.