He has been at the helm at Rochester High School for nearly seven years.
But Chris Keisling has now chosen to permanently substitute the position of principal for varsity girls basketball coach at Logansport High School.
Opting to retire from the home of the Zebras at the end of this school year, the new coach – who was officially hired by the Logansport Community School Corporation board Tuesday during a special meeting – will begin his athletic role later this year.
An interview committee met with four candidates, said LHS Athletic Director Brian Strong. “All four did wonderful jobs, but we felt like Chris was the best fit for us.”
Part of that decision was due to Keisling’s vast experience with coaching, Strong said.
Before joining RHS, Keisling served as a teacher and basketball coach at Lewis Cass Schools. Prior to that, he was the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Western High School in Kokomo from September 2011 through May 2014. He was assistant principal at North Miami Middle/Senior High School from July 1998 through July 2007 and a teacher as well as the boys’ basketball coach at Northfield High School in Wabash from January 1995 through July 1998.
In addition to the experience, Strong said that “we were all impressed with how much energy he has brought to (other) programs and how he builds relationships with the kids. He will do great things. He’s perfect for our community.”
Meranda Cooper previously served as the varsity girls’ basketball coach. After seven years at LHS, she resigned at the end of this season.
Keisling, 57, said he is looking forward to the return to coaching.
“I’m eligible for retirement so I went ahead and decided to go ahead and draw my pension which gives me an opportunity now to jump back into coaching. That’s what I thought would be nice to do,” he said. “I took advantage of this situation. It came open. Brian called me seven years ago right after we won the state there at Western. At that time I had already taken the job at Rochester. It was in the summer months when the job came open when coach Hoover left it. So at that time I had already accepted the job at Rochester and was finishing up my career so to speak with administration there at Rochester. So I simply took a path on the job at that time.
“Then when the job opened up this time around, I called Brian and told him I was definitely interested in the job. So that’s where it went this time around. Of course I really appreciated Brian for giving me the opportunity, both him and administration at Logansport for giving me an opportunity to try to make Logansport successful again.
“Right now I’m looking just to coach. Down the road if something opens up that I can get in the building at some point in the future, I might do that. But right now I’m just looking to coach. So it’s kind of nice to just kind of focus on the coaching side of things.”
Keisling called the job at Logansport “a great opportunity.”
“I think over the years there’s been some ups and downs with Logan and I think the kids are there and the program is there to have success,” he said. “I’m just hoping to work on the overall program to get it to where it can have consistent success year in and year out. I think we have a great group of kids at the varsity level right now that are young and eager. I haven’t had a chance of course to talk to them yet. I was waiting on it to be officially approved. I’m anxious to talk to the kids and get started. First things first is putting the staff put together and getting things ready to go that way. I hope to talk to the girls real quickly here the end of this week or the first of next week and get the ball rolling.”
Keisling won sectional titles at Tri-County and Northfield in the 1990s on the boys side.
His 2014 Western girls basketball team won the Class 3A state championship. The Panthers had a big upset win in the state championship game, 38-35, over Evansville Mater Dei, which couldn’t have hurt Whitney Jennings’ chances at winning the Miss Basketball award that year. Mater Dei had won back-to-back Class 2A state championships and Jennings had led the Berries to the Class 4A semistate round for the first time in program history.
The top two vote getters in 2014 for the Miss Basketball award were Jennings and Mater Dei’s Maura Muensterman, who are good friends.
“We certainly had a nice run. We faced Maura Muensterman in the final game and that was Whitney’s I suppose big rival for the Miss Basketball award,” Keisling said. “It just so happened we were able to kind of shut her down that game. No matter what, Whitney was certainly a very, very deserving Miss Basketball. We had the opportunity to play both young ladies that year. We played the Logan team in the Twin Lakes Tournament that year at Christmas time. Then of course we played the Muensterman girl in the finals. There was no doubt in my mind that Whitney was a handful. So she was a very, very deserving award winner for Miss Basketball.”
Keisling inherits a Logansport team that was a sophomore-heavy group that went 5-16 this past season.
“Hopefully we can get some things going again with the girls at Logansport,” Keisling said. “I know coach Cooper worked really hard with the program. So I’m anxious to see what we can do with the program taking over from coach Cooper. Hopefully we can work on getting on the winning side of things on a consistent basis. I think we can do that at Logansport. I’ve had a chance to watch some film already from last year’s group and I think there’s some pieces there. There’s certainly good youth movement there with a lot of freshmen and sophomores who played varsity ball. Maybe a little undersized, defensively we’re going to have to work on some things, but overall I think they’re a pretty good group of kids.”
Keisling’s teams in the past have been known for playing effective 2-3 zone defenses. He said he learned some nuances of the 2-3 in one season as an assistant coach under Basil Mawbey at Lewis Cass. Keisling’s sons, Jon and Austin, were student-athletes at Lewis Cass.
“I’ve had a lot of different types of teams over the years so I’ve had the chance to work with different types of teams to see what makes it successful,” Keisling said. “When given the chance I run. On the boys side I’ve had teams that ran a lot. The Tri-County team I had one year was the second leading scoring team in the state. We were an undersized team that could run. If you fast-forward to the Western girls, we ran and we ran the 2-3 quite a bit. We also did a little bit of ball control because we had good ball-handlers.”