Kortokrax deserves better; Kalida legend’s career appears over

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Kalida basketball coach Dick Kortokrax jokes with the cheerleaders following the state semis. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

For the past 49 years, Dick Kortokrax has had great success getting
five individuals to do what he wants on a basketball court. Recently
the same can’t be said for a board room. Despite winning more boys basketball games than any person in Ohio high
school history, Kortokrax’s days as the head coach at Kalida High
School appear to be over.


For the past 49 years, Dick Kortokrax has had great success getting five individuals to do what he wants on a basketball court. Recently the same can’t be said for a board room.

Despite winning more boys basketball games than any person in Ohio high school history, Kortokrax’s days as the head coach at Kalida High School appear to be over.

A contract extension signed by Kortokrax two years ago under questionable circumstances ended with the Wildcats loss in the Division IV state final in March.

Kortokrax has not been offered another extension, and it appears unlikely he will coach the Wildcats again.

The district openly posted the position and according to an article in the Lima News, Board president Denny Turnwald and superintendent Don Horstman expect a decision on the coaching opening to come “in the next week or two.” Thus far roughly 12-15 applications have been turned in, including one by Kortokrax.

The criteria for hiring a new coach? Applicants with teaching credentials in and out of the district will be considered first. If no one can be selected from that pool, Horstman told the Lima News they’ll look at uncertified applicants. Kortokrax is the ONLY applicant without a current teaching certificate. It’s not hard to figure out what that means.

Lately it’s been “in” to run legends “out.”

Kalida considers itself popular.

You can argue that Kortokrax should just stick to his agreement and walk away. You can’t argue with his credentials.

Kortokrax’s 785 career wins are more than any other boys basketball coach in state history and make him one of just three coaches ever (boys and girls) to surpass 700 victories. He’s led four team’s to state and his 1981 club won the Class A championship. Twice his teams have finished second.

During stints at Fort Jennings (26-18), Ottoville (200-82) and Kalida (559-214), Kortokrax rung up 20 Putnam County League titles. Seventeen of those came at Kalida, where he’s been for the past 34 years.

If Kortokrax were some eroding coach incapable of leading the program, his exit would be easy to accept. The fact that he just led a team to the state championship game and isn’t getting any answers is unacceptable.

Kortokrax was the Putnam County League Coach of the Year this season, yet he’s not worthy of retaining his job?

Instead, the Kalida BOE gets to decide the fate of someone who has earned far more respect over the years then they have. The administration – surprisingly resigned – hasn’t earned any stars either.

I’m all for change, but only when it’s needed.

This isn’t.

The other thing that makes Kortokrax’s treatment disturbing are the circumstances with which the whole process started.

Reeling from the death of a son, living with a wife diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and fighting a battle with bladder cancer, Kortokrax was approached before the 2007-08 season with a contract that stated he’d coach two more seasons and then step down.

He signed it.

According to the Lima News, the Kalida BOE’s defense when questioned real-time about the timing and binding of the document is he wasn’t “forced” to do it.

What a joke. The district didn’t have to draft it. Or present it. Or accept it.

They could have had some compassion and waited until a better time to offer up an invitation to the door.

But they didn’t. And they still aren’t.

Kortokrax and the Kalida BOE met last Monday and Tuesday. According to the Lima News, Turnwald and fellow board member Don Wehri said the meetings were cordial and beneficial to both sides. Kortokrax’s daughter Beth said the old coach showed up at her house Tuesday in tears. Apparently definitions of cordial and beneficial differ in Kalida. As do views as to whether or not Kortokrax should go.

Wednesday, the Kalida BOE held its monthly meeting. The event had to be moved from the high school library to the gymnasium due to the outpouring of support for Kortokrax.

Several people voiced their support for the old coach, and at one point, all four seniors from this year’s team stood together to defend Kortokrax.

Not a single person stood to speak against him.

Five, however, have elected not to listen.

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