Varsity Basketball Coach Kevin Kirkby Resigns

By Nate Barcus

Coach Kirkby on the sideline. Photo by Kyle Wyman

Coach Kirkby on the sideline. Photo by Kyle Wyman

At the Pascack Hills’ boy’s basketball dinner on March 22, everything started off like a normal basketball dinner. The freshman went up and received their rewards, and the junior varsity team followed. After that, the varsity team was honored for their season and sat back down, and the varsity head coach of seven years, Kevin Kirkby, got up to make a speech.

He first graciously thanked the administration and his parents. He thanked assistant coach Mike O’Brien, and then the speech took a turn that no one in the room expected. Kirkby let the program know that he will have to step down as coach of the varsity team. At that moment, everyone knew the Hills’ program would never be the same.

Coach Kirkby had an immeasurable impact on the Hills’ basketball program. In his seven years as a coach, he had a record of 161-39, which when averaged out over seven years is a record of 23-5, which is an incredible feat. In that time, he lead the Cowboys to six appearances in the Bergen County Jamboree, making five quarter-finals, and one semi-final, the one semifinal coming in the 2015-16 season when they knocked off the number one seed in the county, Ramapo. His team won six division titles, four section titles, and one group final. He set a standard at Hills where they came into any game they played expecting to win.

Throughout his seven years, Kirkby impacted almost every single person that walked through the gym door.  

Former Cowboys basketball player Evan Lazarus commented on what kind of impact Kirkby had on him and the program,“He was the heart and soul of the program and it will be hard going back to the gym and not seeing him there. As far as his career you can’t ask for much more. His enthusiasm about the sport rubbed off on the players and I still miss playing for him. I Want to wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Evan was the starting point guard and captain of the team that pulled off the incredible win over Ramapo in the Bergen County Jamboree. Lazarus was essentially a second Kirkby on the court. He was always one step ahead of everyone else, just like Kirkby. He and Kirkby had one priority that trumped all: winning.

There was no such thing as a day off for Coach Kirkby. Not only is he the varsity basketball coach, but also the varsity baseball coach, and the junior varsity girls volleyball coach. Over the summer he spends his time preparing for upcoming seasons; he never stops. When asked to reflect and tell his favorite memory as coach of the Hill’s program, he couldn’t decide.

“I had three favorite memories.  One was definitely the first sectional title that we won vs Pequannock my first year.  The second was when we won to advance to the state group finals down at Rutgers.  The third was beating Ramapo to advance to the Jambo Final Four. However, every year, the days leading up to tryouts were always my favorite time of the season because I was able to map out what I planned to do the next three weeks to make sure we were prepared. Plus, the excitement of the next season was always a blast. I definitely will miss that the most.”

That is what separates Kirkby from the average basketball coach; he embraces the grind and long hours that come with building a program. Not every coach’s favorite part of the season were the days before the season even started, where he needed to start preparing. Basketball was always on his mind.

Senior Kevin Michael was shocked when he heard the news. He knows how hard it is to run a program like this, especially after the coaches that were here before him, “”It’s tough coming in after guys like Mike O’Brien and Chris Kirkby [his brother] with all the success they had building this program, and coach Kirkby came in and brought it to even new heights. His dedication to this program and passion for the game is going to be nearly impossible to replace.”  

There seems to be a recurring theme throughout the minds of all his past players when they were asked to reflect on coach’s career. They all talked about his drive and effort he put into basketball. Before Kirkby was the head coach, the program was under the hands of his brother, Chris. Chris eventually had to change schools after receiving a new job opportunity, and handed it over to his brother, Kevin. From there, he took off and never looked back.

The atmosphere at a Hills game is something that one can’t get at a regular high school basketball game. Between the quality of the Hills team, and the energy of the Cowboy Crazies, every game has a playoff-level atmosphere.

Kirkby has had his fair share of interactions with the crazies, and when asked what he would want to say to the fans in general right now, he responded, “I loved all of the support that we received from the fans, especially the crazies.  It really was a home court advantage every time we played at home because of them.”

Pascack Hills was an established program before his arrival, but Kirkby brought it to a new level. His tireless effort pushed his teams to the top. He spent countless hours watching film, both of his own team and his upcoming opponents. The tireless work that he put into this program is the main reason that Hills basketball is what it is today. If any basketball player was asked how coach impacted his life, they would all give different answers. He treated every player with the uttermost respect, and if one person on the team succeeded, then the entire team did. Coach Kirkby will be greatly missed on the sideline, not only by his players and assistants, but by the whole community of Pascack Hills.