by Mike Magers
Coach Ralph Tasker of Hobbs, NM died on July 19, 1999 at his home after a short battle with cancer. He was 80 and had also suffered from pneumonia prior to his death. He left behind his wife of almost 49 years, Margaret, his three children, a host of former players and assistants including Ross Black (played for UNM), Bill Bridges (played for Kansas and in the NBA), Rob Evans (played for Lubbock Christian and UNM and coached at University of Mississippi and Arizona State), Larry Robinson (played for Texas), Larry Williams (played at Kansas State), Jeff Taylor, Sr. (played Texas Tech, in the NBA and in Europe), Vince Taylor (played at Texas Tech, the NBA and Europe, now coaching) and Kent Williams (played at Texas Tech).
Longtime assistant Don Abbott of Farmington, said of Tasker, ”He basically changed the way the game of basketball was played,” said Abbott. ”He made better coaches out of all his opponents because of his ability to get the best out of them as well as out of his own teams. He is well respected all over – not only among high school coaches, but college coaches have used some of his innovations,” Abbott added. ”He was a wonderful teacher in the classroom as well. I was fortunate enough to have him as a teacher, too. He taught government and history.” [Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, July 20, 1999]
Tasker was born and raised in West Virginia and played his college ball for the Alderson Broaddus Mountaineers. Upon his graduation and after coaching for one year at Sulphur Springs High School in Ohio, Tasker enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, having been motivated by the attack on Pearl Harbor. After his military service, he accepted a coaching position in Lovington, NM in 1946. That is a story of its own, but Tasker was hired by Lovington’s superintentent of schools, H. C. Pannell. Both Tasker and Pannell happened to be in Albuquerque at the same time. Tasker was being mustered out of the US Army Air Corps and Pannell was there for a meeting. Pannell offered Tasker the job and Tasker accepted. Three years later, he won his first state championship in Lovington, which proved to be Lovington’s only championship for the next 34 years.
Tasker then moved to Hobbs in 1950 where he served as head basketball coach for the next 49 years. By the time he retired in 1998, his combined record from the three schools included 1,122 wins, 291 losses and his teams had earned 12 state championships. His last team finished third in the New Mexico state tournament, one game short of notching what would have been Tasker’s 37th 20-game winning season.
Tasker’s teams were known for a productive offense and a merciless full-court press defense from start to finish. His 1970 team averaged 114.6 points a game, a national high school record set before the institution of the 3-point shot.Coach Tasker’s twelve New Mexico state basketball championships are as follows: one in Lovington (1949) followed by eleven in Hobbs (1956, 1957, 1958, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1980, 1981, 1987 and 1988). He was twice named National High School Coach of the Year and was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. He also received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Morgan Wooten Award. Tasker was named to the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor and the Walt Disney Coach/Teacher of the Year both in 1991.[Arguably one of the most effective coaches in the history of high school basketball, Tasker will likely be the subject of several blog posts.]