Steven Goss knew exactly what he was getting when he hired Rick Kirkhart as the next Keys’ girls head basketball coach.

Kirkhart has vast experience as a head coach and he’s known Goss for a lot of years.

His 26 years as a head coach at two schools — Okay and Haskell — plus his three years of being within the Keys Public Schools system was a convenience for Goss, the Keys’ athletic director.

Kirkhart retired after a nine-year stint at Haskell and wasn’t planning on coming back into coaching until a phone call from Goss. Kirkhart and Goss were both coaches at Haskell at the same time. Kirkhart coached the Lady Haymakers, while Goss was in charge of the boys’ program.

“I got a call from a good friend of mine, which is Steven Goss,” Kirkhart said on Friday. “He asked if I would like to teach half a day. I thought about it and eventually I said yes to it. That’s how I ended up at Keys.”

The relationship between Kirkhart and Goss is close knit and goes way back.

“It’s extremely important. Steven is a great guy and a great athletic director,” Kirkhart said. “I’ve known Steven since he was a baby. I know his family and they’re good people, but Steven and I go way back and he’s really, really great to work for. He helps you in every way.”

Kirkhart, who over his first three years at Keys led the alternative education program and assisted with the golf program, is taking over for Jami Springwater, who stepped down in June.

“I’m excited about Keys,” Kirkhart said. “I’ve been in their system for three years, so it’s not really something new. I do know a little about the kids, the basketball team I’m speaking about. I’ve watched them play a couple of times and I’ve watched them on Hudl, did a little research. I think they’re going to be pretty competitive.

The Lady Cougars went 18-9 and earned a second consecutive district tournament championship in Springwater’s final year as head coach.

Kirkhart spent 17 years at Okay as was also a baseball and slowpitch softball head coach during his time there.

“You know, being back in the business, I’m really excited,” he said. “I think the future is going to be good at Keys. Keys has always been a real good school. We go way back because we played them home and away when I was at Okay. So, I’m familiar with Keys and I knew quite a few people at Keys, so it made it relaxing for me just to be teaching there, let alone coaching.”

“We’re lucky to have someone like Rick,” Goss said in June. “He’s been a successful head coach everywhere he’s been. It was good to have him already here on staff with his experience.”

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