Kyle Uhrig knows there will be doubters. How do you follow in the footsteps of a coaching icon? Uhrig is about to find out. At the Southeastern Local Board of Education meeting
Wednesday, Uhrig was hired as the new varsity boys basketball
coach. He replaces “Larry Legend” and I don’t mean Bird. Uhrig, just
24, takes the reigns to a program Larry Jordan coached for longer than
its new coach has been alive.
Kyle Uhrig knows there are those who’ll question his sanity.
How do you follow in the footsteps of a coaching icon? Uhrig is about to find out. Adding his name to a list that includes Mike Davis, Bill Guthrie and whoever the next coach at Duke is, Uhrig hopes to have better success.
At the Southeastern Local School District Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Uhrig was hired as the Panthers new varsity boys basketball coach. He replaces “Larry Legend” and I don’t mean Bird. Uhrig, just 24, takes the reigns to a program Larry Jordan coached for longer than its new coach has been alive.
Given the 2008 Paul Walker Award (the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association’s top honor) just two months ago at the boys state basketball tournament, Jordan is done after 34 years at Southeastern. The icon is gone following a recent flurry of media gaffes, discipline issues, player suspensions and head-butts with administration. Bobby Knight had to move on. Now so does Jordan.
The Southeastern gym is named for its parting coach and for good reason. Jordan led the Panthers to 538 wins and trips to the state tournament in three separate decades (1977, 1981 and 1990). Southeastern never won a state title.
Jordan won over plenty of followers though as evidenced by his popularity on JJHuddle.com. In the boys basketball forum a thread entitled “Southeastern – Coach Jordan” has been viewed over 21,000 times and contains over 237 posts.
Talk about popularity.
“I learned a lot of things outside of basketball from Larry,” said Uhrig, who spent the last three seasons as Jordan’s varsity assistant. “Larry always handled the community well and people loved him. He ran his program to have an impact beyond basketball and he taught more than Xs and Os. People underestimate how much he contributed outside of basketball.
“That’s why a lot of people are upset.”
Uhrig knows he’s stepping into a volatile situation, but its one he’s ready to attack. It’s not often someone his age gets the chance to lead a program with the Panthers credentials and that youth has fueled his fire.
There’s also no doubting Uhrig’s resume. His knowledge of and experience in the Scioto Valley Conference is extensive.
A 2002 graduate of SVC member Huntington High School, Uhrig starred in golf and basketball for the Huntsmen. All of Uhrig’s previous coaching gigs have been at SVC schools as well. He credits conference coaches Rick Uhrig (Huntington), Todd Kellough (Huntington), Matt Hoops (Unioto, previously Westfall) and, of course Jordan, with helping shaping his coaching philosophy.
Uhrig’s brother-in-law is Scott Keller, another SVC coach of note. Keller led Westfall to the first ever football state semifinal berth (Division IV) for any SVC school in the fall.
“People may look at this as a tough situation, but I look at it as a great opportunity at a great place,” Uhrig said. “It’s not like I was waiting in the wings. I’ve listened to Larry and I stayed out of his situation. When it was clear that he wasn’t coming back, I looked at this as a great opportunity. It was a tough decision for me. You’ve seen all the posts (on JJHuddle).
“There’s so much surrounding this.”
It’s not the ideal situation for a first year varsity coach. But Uhrig’s not your average coach.
A 2007 graduate of Ohio University, Uhrig will continue to teach middle school social studies. He’s currently finishing work on his master’s in administration at Ashland University’s Columbus branch and attends class Monday, Thursday and Saturday. He’s also managing the Panthers summer work schedule.
Ultimately it was the kids that made the decision for Uhrig. Despite the Panthers slip to 3-18 last season after an SVC title in 2007, Uhrig is excited about the challenge and the players in the program. He also doesn’t need to establish a tradition – just carry one on.
“I know it’s cliché, but it really came down to the kids,” Uhrig said. “I couldn’t leave these kids. We’ve got a great core of players coming back and they want to get better.
“Less face facts though. Some people won’t show up to games because Larry’s not there and I understand that. Larry has a lot of fans and a lot of support. There’s going to be pressure, but whenever you coach a Southeastern basketball team there’s going to be pressure. You might as well just have at it.”