Sunday, May 23, 2004

Quick chat with...Ken Shields

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Northern Kentucky University honored Ken Shields on Saturday with a retirement dinner. But after 40 years in coaching, he's not entirely finished.

Shields, still full-time through July, will coach his last set of NKU basketball camps the weeks of June 14-18, June 28-July 2 and July 19-23. (For boys in grades 3-12, call (859) 572-5193 for information.)

This fall, in a part-time role, he will instruct three University 101 courses, a class he has taught for 15 years, and do some speaking work in the community for NKU.

Shields, Northern Kentucky's winningest coach in both the high school (460 victories) and college (306) ranks, talked last week with the Enquirer about retirement.

Q. What has this been like?

A. It's an adjustment. For the first time in 40 years, I don't have a team that I'm thinking about for next year.

I've always carried a pen in my left front pocket - invariably I'd be pulling it out to write down prospects (or) anything related to recruiting, the team. Now that pen has been silenced.

Q. Talk about the ambassador-type role you'll have for the school.

A. I'm a great believer in NKU and Northern Kentucky. I want to continue my involvement in that.

Q. You mentioned this time last year the possibility of returning to high school coaching. Will you do that?

A. Right now, I'm not ready for that. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for it.

We have 11 grandchildren, a 12th one due in August - all our (five) children live close to us. Every day that I'm away from being a head coach, I'm becoming more and more appreciative of (retiring) being the right thing to do. ... I have to see how things go. I know I'll miss it immensely.

Q. You were happy your longtime assistant, Dave Bezold, succeeded you. Describe why he's a great fit.

A. The bottom line is he has tremendous work habits. He's a tireless worker. He's very good in the recruiting realm. He's been the architect of our defense here. He's just very, very solid.

Q. What are your thoughts on NKU possibly moving to Division I?

A. Once we get a true commitment for the facility, and it's on the way, I think our president (James Votruba) will want to go in that direction.

We've had another great year with all our sports teams. ... When you do make a commitment to Division I, you spend four years without being able to play in any postseason tournament. After that, you're the little kid on the block and you have to build. But if there's ever a university that's positioned to make this happen, it would be ours.

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