A summer shake-up has many new faces in different places with several sports teams at Houston Schools.
The biggest changes took place in the basketball programs. Although both high school head coaches remained in place, they each have new assistants, and the middle school programs for the first time have two coaches.
On the boys’ side, Brent Hall will coach the Tigers for the second consecutive year. His former assistant, Willy Walker, is moving down to the middle school level and is replaced by Dustin Kirkman, a 1999 Houston High School graduate who moves into the district from Licking.
Walker will be assisted by Derek Heflin, who coached the seventh and eighth grade boys last season.
“This is probably the best coaching staff we’ve had in a long time,” Hall said.
Kirkman returns to his alma mater with an extensive basketball background. He averaged a double-double his senior season at HHS before signing with Missouri State University-West Plains. He later transferred to College of the Ozarks.
His coaching experience includes working under coach Steve Hunter at Ozark.
“He’s a good addition,” Hall said. “He’s young, got energy and is good with the kids.”
Hall said having two coaches at the middle school level is a much-needed move.
“You always have to turn your back on a group when it’s just one coach. Now you can split up and spend the time you need with each team,” Hall said. “Supervision will be a big thing, too. At times, one team is getting dressed for a game and you’re up there coaching a game and leaving the kids unattended.”
The girls’ basketball program made similar changes. Longtime varsity assistant coach John Jordan is moving down to middle school and will work alongside Jodie Tottingham. Jordan is replaced at the varsity level by Jennifer McNiell, who coached the middle school girls’ teams last year.
Lady Tigers head coach Brent Kell, who worked 13 years with Jordan, said the school board for several years wanted to add a female to the high school staff. They finally had the opportunity this year with McNiell.
“We’ve already worked together this summer,” Kell said of McNiell. “We have a lot of the same principles and ideas about how to do things.”
Kell said Jordan will bring his team philosophies to the middle school level. Tottingham, who coached middle school volleyball last year, played for Kell.
The football staff made a few offseason moves as well. Kirkman will join the high school staff as a wide receivers and outside safeties coach, and Mike Chambers comes onboard as a volunteer. They join holdovers Billy O’Neil and Heflin under third-year coach Chris Edwards.
Boulder McKinney is moving down from varsity to middle school alongside his brother, Todd McKinney.
Edwards’ new staff worked together for the first time at a June team camp in Warrrensburg. The team will hold its own camp the last week of July, and practice begins in early August.
“We’ve got a couple young coaches, which in my opinion is a good thing,” Edwards said. “They’re willing to work and put in the hours it takes, and they have a pretty good rapport with the kids.”
The softball program is under new leadership as Walker takes over for Boulder McKinney, who coached the Lady Tigers the past two years. The softball season moves to the fall this year, leaving McKinney with the decision to coach football or softball.
McNiell will be Walker’s assistant coach.
The varsity volleyball program remains unchanged with head coach Debbie James and assistant Amy McNew returning. Tottingham will again coach the middle school team and will be assisted by Sandy Cremer.
The baseball team remains under the leadership of Hall with assistants Ed Edington and Bud Evans. Kell and Jordan stay with the golf and tennis teams, respectively, and Edwards, in his third year as athletic director, will continue to coach track.