HUTTON: Kirk Kennedy on the move again after a year at North Judson
By Mike Hutton 613-0141 or email@example.com Twitter@MikeHuttonPT February 20, 2014 8:34PM
Updated: March 22, 2014 6:42AM
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
— Joni Mitchell “The Circle Game”
Did you feel sadness, anger, empathy, relief, sympathy and disappointment upon hearing the news that Kirk Kennedy is leaving after one season as the North Judson football coach?
Two weeks after he told his players it was over, if you are experiencing the noxious mixture of all five of those competing emotions, it’s normal. A Kennedy departure for Franklin High School (we’ve been through two of them now) inspires those kinds of reactions.
Kennedy is an enigma.
He is a great coach, who has left two rebuilding jobs in his last two stops.
He’ll be coaching at his third school in three years, yet he is not a job hopper. He spent 21 years at Lowell before leaving for another job that would get him out of the classroom, something he always wanted.
He is brutally, and perhaps destructively, honest about himself, yet it’s not clear to me if the reason for him leaving this time is as simple as he says it is.
And now he’s gone, leaving in his wake a program that is not better off than when he arrived.
A hall of fame coach and all-around inspirational guy, even after Kennedy left for Bloomington South after winning a state title at Lowell in 2005 and finishing as runner-up in 2007 and 2009, Kennedy walked like a region guy, talked like a region guy and even looked like one, even though he’s originally from Ohio. I don’t care what he says or where he goes, he cut his legacy in Northwest Indiana.
The Red Devils were utterly predictable offensively and yet unstoppable in a fascinating way during their best years. They rarely passed the ball, yet the handful of running plays they used had subtle variations that created defensive headaches. They were ultra disciplined, a reflection of their rugged coach, who could often be seen wearing shorts on the sidelines with the temperature below freezing. Lowell averaged 277 yards rushing per game in 2009 and 3,878 yards. The Devils rushed for over 3,700 yards in 2005.
Kennedy is gone now and he isn’t coming back.
I wanted to see if the Kennedy experiment worked somewhere else, though, he surprised me when he ran the wishbone at North Judson because of their history with it.
Won’t happen now. Always hurts to lose a quality coach and person.
He is leaving because he didn’t get the job he was promised when he hired in. Administrators failed to deliver a strength and conditioning job (weight room supervisor) they said would be his after a year. Budget cuts and dwindling enrollment at the school cost the district the position.
Kennedy’s plight seems exasperated by Kennedy’s restlessness: Of course, he should’ve have known, in these circumstances, with public education under siege from the fallout of the great recession and state policies that have capsized funding, that what was said last year might not materialize this year. He could’ve given them another year or two and then pulled the plug.
The kids always suffer in these situations.
Kennedy deserved to be treated better by the school.
For the program to be successful, he needed to be in the building. The school administrators shipped him off to the middle school for his new gig. They got what they deserved.
He has enough coaching capitol to get just about any coaching job in the state that he is qualified for. The administrators broke a promise and he decided to leave. It was an untenable situation.
It’s better that he moved on. It wasn’t a great fit from the beginning.
Enrollment is dwindling and the school system has some serious issues to work out in the long term. The high school got a D rating from the state of Indiana in its latest evaluations. Getting control of the system, from top to bottom — something that is essential for success for Kennedy — was going to be difficult.
The Bluejays finished 3-8. They were supposed to do better, though they were decimated with serious injuries.
No one was harder on himself for leaving than Kennedy. He planned to stay indefinitely.
“When you go somewhere, you go with the idea that you will succeed,” he said. “When I left Bloomington, I had mixed emotions. I felt like I failed. I came here for the right reasons. I was committed to the kids and the program. The feeling I get here is frustration.”
Kennedy said the decision to leave “was made for me.”
From every level, the hire was a failure.
The administration failed and Kennedy failed.
There was miscommunication and obvious distrust that developed quickly over the course of less than a year. A bad hire, one like this, can set a program back for years. It’s unfortunate from every angle except this one: Kennedy is taking a job that is close to where he spent his formative childhood years in Ohio, for a program in a school system that is in better shape than the one he left.
He’ll be fine.
North Judson and the football program? That is to be determined.
I don’t blame him for going but I don’t like it much. Kennedy called leaving Lowell “one of the worst professional decisions of his life.” It’s clear that move still haunts him and that, in some ways, he’s still trying to find what he once had. He couldn’t find it at North Judson. So, he’s hopping on his Harley and heading east.
I hope, for his sake, he finds it again.