Moving up to 5A isn't going to keep new Bonneville boys basketball coach Jason Finder up at night.

He has dealt with greater forms of adversity.

It was startling when the Lakers volunteered to move up a classification and compete with larger schools on a regular basis in 5A.

Finder has dealt with bigger surprises.

Almost a year ago, Finder returned from a year-long deployment to Iraq as a member of the Army reserves. He was a full-time member of the U.S. Army from 1996-99, but had been in the Army's inactive reserves in recent years.

That changed with a simple walk to his mailbox.

In December of 2005, Finder received some stunning news: His status in the reserves was being changed from inactive to active, and he would soon be headed to the war in Iraq. He would have to leave his wife, Hillary, his two kids, and the sophomore boys basketball team he was coaching at Bonneville.

"It was a very big shock," Finder said. "When you're in the inactive reserves, you don't think you're going to get called up, but I did."

Finder had no choice but to just deal with it, and he did. He was away from his family for about 16 months. He first trained for what his duties would call for in Iraq, then spent a full year in the war-torn country. He was a supply sergeant for a civil affairs company. His duties included distributing supplies to schools, and he had a hand in other forms of humanitarian aid. He was responsible for tracking about $4 million worth of equipment, and as he put it, "trying not to get blown up."

While in Iraq, Finder had an uneasy feeling that never really escaped him. Narrowly avoiding attacks on your life will do that to a person.

Finder was traveling in a convoy when the vehicle in which he was riding was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). Fortunately, the device didn't cause any injuries to Finder and the military personnel with whom he was riding. The vehicle wasn't as lucky, as a tire was blown out and some holes were put in it.

On another occasion, a rocket was fired into Finder's forward operating base (FOB), which was basically his work area. The rocket hit a wall about 30 feet away from him, and again, no one was hurt in the attack.

The sounds of mortars and small-arms fire were like summertime crickets for Finder — he simply just got accustomed to hearing them while he was in Iraq.

"Every day, I was kind of walking on pins and needles," Finder said. "You never knew what was going to happen. I had some scary moments, but I'm back and happy to have that in the past."

Now, Finder can focus on getting Bonneville basketball back on the right path.

Finder was recently named as the replacement for former head coach Blair Garner, who resigned following the 2007-08 season. The Lakers have taken last place in Region 5 the last two seasons. Finder was an assistant on Garner's staff last year, helping with the senior class he had to leave for Iraq when they were sophomores.

Finder, who played college basketball at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, N.Y., grew up in northern Utah and graduated from Weber High in 1988. He's no stranger to the rich tradition that Bonneville has in boys basketball, and he's eager to return the program among the state's elite — which is no small task if the Lakers do end up in 5A.

"When I was growing up, Bonneville was the place to play basketball," Finder said. "The kids here really want to win, and school spirit is back on the rise for the most part. It's a good school, a good community. I don't think I'll be a miracle worker, but I'm going to do my best."


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