HIGHLANDS RANCH | Bob Caton picked up his 500th career coaching victory earlier in the 2014-15 boys basketball season and he got a big boost toward the milestone by the time he spent at Aurora Central.
So it was fitting that Caton was honored by his current school, Highlands Ranch, Tuesday night prior to the tip-off of a non-league game against his former program.
Caton’s Falcons downed the Trojans 50-39 to deliver his 502nd career victory, while the milestone win itself came on Dec. 19, 2014, with the Falcons’ 54-45 victory over Pine Creek at the Cherry Creek Tournament.
Former players attended the game to honor Caton, including Stephen Franklin, one of the key players on Aurora Central’s team that made it to the 2006-07 Class 5A state championship game, plus ex-Highlands Ranch standouts including Marcus Byrd and Bret Olson.
“Basketball has been a big part of my life,” Caton said. “I’ve coached in just about every neighborhood in the Denver Metro area and so I’ve met a lot of kids with different backgrounds. The thing is that kids are always kids.
“The names change, but that’s about it and it’s about the great relationships you have with players.”
Though records on the Colorado High School Activities Association website haven’t been updated since 2012, Caton ranks seventh on the all-time list of wins in state history by a boys basketball coach. Among active coaches, only Denver East’s Rudy Carey (651 wins through 2010) and Regis Jesuit’s Ken Shaw (who has 680 wins after a 11-0 start this season with the Raiders) rank in front of Caton.
Former Denver Christian boss Dick Katte is the runaway career leader with 876.
On the same night Caton was recognized for his milestone, Shaw picked up his 680th career win as top-ranked Regis Jesuit routed No. 5 Montbello 80-47.
“It’s the longevity of it, to stay in it and stay focused and keep your enthusiasm for that long is big,” Shaw said. “Bob’s been in it a long time, too. …People think it’s just about the wins, but it’s about the time you spend with the kids in the season and the offseason. If you don’t like that or embrace that, there’s not enough wins in the world to satisfy the rest.”
At Aurora Central, Caton racked up 90 victories in four seasons as the varsity coach after coaching the freshman team for a year after coming over from George Washington. He took over a Trojans team that finished 1-19 in 2003-04 and turned them immediately into one of the state’s best teams after then-athletic director Ad Lopez gave him a chance.
From 2004-2007, Caton piled up a 76-3 record in three seasons and led the Trojans deep into the postseason each time.
Aurora Central lost on a buzzer beater to Grandview in the Class 5A Sweet 16 in 2004-05, then to Cherry Creek in Great 8 in 2005-06 at the Denver Coliseum and finally to Denver East in the 2006-07 5A state championship game.
“I had so many fond memories at great times at Aurora Central,” Caton said.
Franklin loved Caton’s straightforward coaching style and it helped him reach new heights as a player.
The versatile 6-foot-6 guard/forward went onto play at the University of Texas-San Antonio — which earned a bid to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2011 — and he went on to play overseas in subsequent years, including an outstanding season in Malta.
“Coach Caton tells you exactly what he wants, it’s not hidden,” Franklin said. “He just says ‘I want this’ and if you do that, you’ll probably go on and be successful. He’s a great coach, a great coach.”
Franklin emulates Caton’s in his work as a personal trainer and at a local school for kids with special needs.
Caton departed after Aurora Central’s championship game run to take over at Highlands Ranch, which is much nearer to his house, and helped make the Falcons one of the state’s teams to be reckoned with every season.
Caton played his prep basketball and Denver West, then moved to Fort Collins and was the captain of the Colorado State University team in 1969. He was part of the 1971 squad that made the NCAA’s Elite Eight. Carey also played on the CSU team at the same time.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
BOB CATON’S COACHING 500-PLUS COACHING VICTORIES BY SCHOOL
1. Highlands Ranch — 134; 2. George Washington 121; 3. AURORA CENTRAL 90; 4. West + Manual + Lincoln 156