Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Shields will retire after this season

Norse coach: 'I thought this was a good time'

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Northern Kentucky men's basketball coach Ken Shields, entering his 16th season at the helm of the Norse, announced Tuesday he will retire from his position at the end of the upcoming season.

Ken Shields
Ken Shields announces that he will retire as NKU basketball coach at the end of the 2003-04 season.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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Ken Shields
Shields hugs his son-in-law, Patrick Smith, after the announcement.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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"The bottom line is, I thought this was a good time," the 61-year-old Covington native said at a news conference following several months of speculation he would coach only one more season. "I'll miss it. I'll miss it tremendously. But I thought this was the time and I'm very comfortable with it."

Going into his final season, Shields has a 290-155 mark at the school. He led the Norse to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, including back-to-back Division II national championship games in 1996 and 1997. In 1995, Shields was Division II coach of the year.

He also coached 23 years in high school - 10 at St. Thomas and 13 at Highlands - and became the all-time winningest boys basketball coach in Ninth Region history with a record of 460-257.

In the past, Shields has discussed the possibility of returning to high school coaching following his retirement from NKU. Tuesday, he said such plans are "possible, but I wouldn't say probable."

Instead, Shields plans to stay on as an NKU faculty member as a part-time teacher.

Although he informed his players of his decision in the spring, Shields' official announcement brought about mixed emotions from the team.

Junior Mike Kelsey said it will be tough for the program to adjust to life without the man who built it. Senior Jesse Rupe considered the current team fortunate. "I think we're just going to try a little harder now for Coach, because it's his last year, and try to make it a little extra special for him," he said.

Shields' decision to coach one more season gives the administration time to find a suitable successor, though the coach hinted the search might not have to be too extensive.

He said he feels his assistants are "prepped very well" for the task of taking over the program, especially assistant Dave Bezold, who filled in for Shields when the coach had back surgery in 2001. Athletic director Jane Meier said the school first will undergo a national search.

"It will start in February and we hope to have interviews in mid-March and hope to have someone by the first of April," she said.

Meier said she could not comment on any potential candidates at this point.

The Norse open their season Nov. 7 vs. Kennesaw State in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Shields file

Born: Dec. 23, 1941.

Residence: Fort Thomas.

Athletic highlights: Named Covington Catholic's most outstanding athlete as a senior in 1960. Played baseball and basketball.

Coaching career: High school - freshman coach, CovCath (1964-65); head coach, St. Thomas (1965-75); head coach, Highlands (1975-88). High school coaching record: 460-257 (.642). College - Head coach, NKU (1988-present). Collegiate coaching record - 290-155 (.652).

Coaching highlights: Five Ninth Region championships at Highlands. NKU team reached the NCAA Division II championship game in 1996 and '97. Named 1995 Division II Bulletin National Coach of the Year.

Looking back: "The glory years, when we went to the Elite Eight the two successive times, when we just missed out on winning the title, they're very special. But I go back to the first year ... just because of how close we were at that time. But the most memorable year I think would have been (1994-95) year, when I was national coach of the year."



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