Forbes Lapp understood that there might be questions concerning his age when he applied for the boys basketball coaching position at Heritage High School.
“I told them I’d like to coach 15 more years and die on the job, and they busted up,” Lapp said. “I want to coach until I can’t coach anymore. I love it. I’ve done it for 53 years.”
Looks like Lapp, at 74 years old, will have an opportunity to make it at least 54 years in the profession.
Lapp, who coached La Center to back-to-back state championships in the 1990s, has accepted the job at Heritage.
“He has a huge passion for basketball,” said Leta Meyer, Heritage’s athletic director. “I really felt what he has to bring us is what we definitely need. He’s had state championships, but he’s also had the 3-17 seasons. He gets it. He’s been in coaching a very, very long time.”
Lapp remains on staff at La Center High School as a physical education teacher. For the past four seasons, he has coached at De La Salle North Catholic in Portland. The logistics of 5 a.m. practices in Portland then teaching in La Center were burdensome, so Lapp took a shot at an opening in Clark County.
Heritage had one magical year of basketball — with a district title in 2009 — but otherwise has had an uneventful past. Lapp said he is the man who can turn it around for the Timberwolves.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve won,” he said.
“When I went to La Center, they hadn’t won in 10 years,” Lapp explained. “My second year, we won 20 games.”
Then came the state titles in 1996 and 1997. Lapp, though, does not take much credit for those seasons.
“Anyone could have won with those kids,” he said. “I think my best years were a few years after that, when we weren’t very good and we went to state three or four years.”
In all, Lapp led the Wildcats to eight state tournament appearances.
In Portland, he took De La Salle North to state three times in four seasons.
Now, he hopes to do the same with the Timberwolves.
“I’ve been to two football practices, talked to the coaches, talked to people who know the program. They have talent,” Lapp said. “I’m enthused. I’ve got a budget. I’ve never had a budget in high school.”
His five decades of coaching have taken him all over the country at high schools, small colleges, and as an assistant at some bigger programs. Besides his basketball knowledge, he also just might teach his young athletes how to take care of their bodies for a lifetime.
“There are very few full-time PE teachers at 74,” Lapp said with pride. “I run five days a week, two miles. I lift weights for an hour and 15 minutes, three days a week. And I swim for half an hour three days a week. I’m in pretty good shape for an old man.”
He also remains confident in his abilities.
“Leta Meyer is just a great AD. I really think she wants a winning program,” Lapp said, “which is why she hired me.”