Coaching changes add to new look of league
The Kaw Valley League already was going to have a new look this fall when it reduced to eight teams from 10 with the departure of Perry-Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail.
Many of the returning schools will have new looks, as well — on the sidelines, that is.
The coaching carousel has been spinning rapidly since this spring from Mill Valley to Bonner Springs, from Basehor-Linwood to Tonganoxie, and everywhere in between.
Now, more than the list of league schools could look different this year. The league standings could be rearranged with the arrival of new leaders.
Arguably the biggest — and most surprising — change took place at Mill Valley where football coach George Radell resigned under pressure from the USD 232 Board of Education despite a 10-year run of almost constant success, including three league championships and two runner-up finishes, three district titles and a 2008 appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
The change will make the Mill Valley situation one of the most intriguing story lines in the league this fall. Fresh face Joel Applebee, a 29-year-old former Derby assistant, is the Jaguars’ new boss. Among his credentials is an embrace of strength and conditioning that seems to mirror that of BLHS strength guru Ross Schwisow. If the Bobcats’ overall increase in athletic success since Schwisow’s arrival is any indication, Mill Valley could be in good hands.
Another major change at Mill Valley is in girls basketball where coach Diana Krull resigned after the season. Her replacement should bring additional clout to a league filled with quality coaches as hall-of-famer John McFall takes charge. If the name rings a bell, that’s because the Sunflower League legend led the Olathe South boys to two state championships.
The biggest boys basketball change happened at Bonner Springs where Andy Price has returned to the sideline for his second stint with the Braves. Already a strong basketball conference in recent years, Price’s return could help push the Braves back into league championship contention within a few years. He won two KVL titles during his first five-year run at BSHS, and he had a 66-42 record. He also inherits a team lacking in size but loaded with athleticism — the same traits that Price’s previous teams had.
The sport with the most shakeups in the KVL is soccer, however, where both Tonganoxie and Basehor-Linwood will welcome in new boys and girls head coaches.
THS has never been a league title contender on the pitch, and only time will tell if former Chieftains assistant Brian Kroll can make the boys squad more competitive or if assistant Justin Seever will have the same effect when he takes charge of the THS girls’ program.
Meanwhile, the BLHS girls will try to build off of this season’s strong finish when University of St. Mary coach Derek Mazeitis. The Basehor-Linwood boys — once the dominant force in KVL soccer — will try to return to the top this fall under the guidance of first-year coach Austin Knipp.
If Knipp’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s no stranger to BLHS soccer. He set the state record for goals scored in a career with 100 when he was a player for the Bobcats.
Whether Knipp can coach as well as he played remains to be seen, although we already have some indication of his ability to lead a program. He served as an assistant on former coach Jaclyn Naster’s staff last year. After a rough start to the season, they made some lineup changes and found some serous scoring punch and nearly knocked eventual state champion St. James Academy out of the Class 4-1A regional playoffs before falling, 2-1.
What these coaching changes ultimately mean remains to be seen. What they tell us for sure is that in a year where we knew already knew the league would look different, even more changes could abound. Teams we thought we knew quite well will be using different lineups, running new offenses and bringing entirely new philosophies to the league.
All of these are changes that, if we’re lucky, will make the new high school sports year more intriguing and more fun to watch.