New Palestine girls basketball coach Brian Kehrt will be stepping down from the position after four successful years at the helm of the Dragons.
The Dragons went 54-37 in his four years at the helm, including a 33-14 record the last two seasons, in which the Dragons posted back-to-back 15-win seasons for the first time in more than two decades.
NP increased its record in each of his four years, going 9-11 in 2013-14 – a six-win improvement from the previous year – to 12-12, 16-7 and 17-7. The Dragons were sectional runners-up in 2015, competing in Class 4A each year. NPHS was the Hoosier Heritage Conference runner-up this season, with its 6-1 record the program’s best conference mark since winning the HHC title in 1994.
“I have been blessed the past four years to be able to coach some incredible young ladies,” Kehrt said. “As a coach, you hope you can teach basketball and provide life lessons and help make your athletes better people. The reality for me has been that our players have actually made me a better person, and for that, I am grateful.”
Kehrt is planning to spend more time with his family – his wife Jan and three daughters, the youngest of which plays basketball at DePauw University. He will continue to teach math at NPHS.
“When I started coaching at New Palestine, my daughters were little and would run around on the floor after games,” Kehrt said. “Basketball was a huge part of the Kehrt household and I thank my wife Jan for allowing me to coach and for the sacrifices that were made because of my coaching.
“Traveling to Natalie’s games and getting to spend family time with our twins Lindsey and Lauren has become even tougher, but it is my number one priority.”
Several of the Dragons he coached have gone on to play college basketball. In addition to Natalie Kehrt at DePauw, Haley Stratman (Taylor) and Carly Hackler (Anderson) are playing in college. Senior Raegan McMurray, the second 1,000-point scorer in school history, also plans to play in college next year.
“I asked him four years ago to take this program to the a new level and he did just that,” NPHS athletic director Allen Cooper said. “He has stamped excellence on all of his teams, girls and boys. Most notably, he has resurrected a program, instilled a positive culture, and held our athletes to a high standard. His leadership has been the galvanizing factor in advancing the program.
“Brian will be missed as a coach and as a friend.”
Cooper is accepting applications for the position and will look to fill it as soon as possible. The Dragons return six of their top seven scorers from the 2016-17 season.
He is the 13th head in the program’s 42-year history, and the third-winningest. Only Cooper (228) and Ernie Brewer (56) have more wins. He is the second person to be the head coach of both the boys and girls basketball teams. Kehrt worked as a boys assistant with the first, Carl Hughes, who led the Dragon girls in 1980 and the boys from 1986-90. Kehrt is a graduate of Shelbyville High School and Ball State University.
Kehrt credits the support of the staff – assistant coaches Rocky Thayer, Nancy Workman and Chris Story – the extreme support of the parents involved, as well as from the administration.
“Coaching basketball in Indiana is different than coaching any other sport. The time demands and pressures of the job can be difficult,” Kehrt said. “I had the privilege to work for the best athletic director in the state of Indiana in Al Cooper. I will always appreciate the efforts of Mr. Cooper and his staff, as well as the backing of our administration at the high school.”
This is Kehrt’s second stint at the helm of a New Palestine basketball team. He is the winningest boys basketball coach in NPHS history, going 126-93 from 1995-2005, winning a sectional and two HHC titles before passing the program on to former assistant Adam Barton, who followed by winning 120 games in a 10-year span.
“I could not have chosen a better school corporation to represent,” Kehrt said. “I thank New Palestine High School and all of the many players over the years for allowing me the privileege of being their head coach.”