Relaxed but excited.

Mike Kiss is ready to start the season.

by John Ring

If there was one word to describe the hiring of Mike Kiss as the 30th basketball coach in Silver Streak history, it had to be "excited."

Athletic Director Mike Robson used it twice when he introduced Kiss to a gathering of about 35 people at Thiel Gym last Thursday.

And, in the first minute of his acceptance speech, Kiss used the word "excited" three times.

"I’m excited to be the new coach here at Galesburg,

"I’m excited about our future,"

"I’m excited about our brand of basketball."

Mike Kiss, who coached basketball at Geneseo for the last 22 years and posted a record of 297-293, said all the right things at Thiel Gym. He talked about the tradition of basketball at Galesburg, his respect for the community, the energy he wants to bring to the program and that the Silver Streaks had great basketball fans.

While at Geneseo, Kiss took the Leafs farther than ever before in history during the basketball tournament— the Super Sectional in 1997— and won the North Central Illinois Conference twice.

"It’s been a career goal of mine to coach here in Galesburg and in the Western Big 6," said Coach Kiss. "This is a step up from the NCIC and is perfect timing for me. All of my kids are grown up and left home, now my kids will be the players on the team."

"Fans can look for our team to be defensive oriented, it all starts with defense. But we’re going to press and we’re going to run."

Kiss was hoping to meet with the returning Streak players as soon as he can. "The sooner I meet them and get this going, the better. I want them to know how excited I am to be here. I want to make them better players and better persons."

Coach Kiss also wants to get a jump on summer basketball, something he admits is huge for the program. It was certainly a big-time stumbling block for his Geoff Falk, his predecessor.

"Summer basketball is big and it has to get done. From a skill position, that’s where a lot of work gets done. I’ll work with kids anytime I can, in the morning or at night. But also, a player can improve himself by playing in his driveway or in the park at basketball courts, too."

Geneseo’s population is much smaller than Galesburg’s and the Maple Leafs rarely had minority players on the team. But Kiss doesn’t anticipate any problems in this area. "I deal with players on a one on one basis. It’s all about communication. Everyone is different; you and I are different. But no, I’m not concerned about that."

Eventually, he’d like to tweak the Streaks schedule but Kiss doesn’t have any big plans on improving the atmosphere at Thiel Gym for basketball games.

"At Geneseo, we played very good competition but it got a little tough at times. You don’t want the kids to get too discouraged with loss after loss. It also depends on which way we go for the Regional and Sectional Tournaments. One of my goals while I’m here at Galesburg is to bring the state defending champions to Thiel Gym on a Saturday night in January to play the Silver Streaks. The Thanksgiving Tournament is something I want to work on as well."

"My belief is that if you get the kids to work hard and play hard and win, the fans will come out and support the team."

Asked if he feels any immediate pressure to win, Kiss replied, "None whatsoever. The only pressure I feel is to do a good job with day to day things, to coach these kids the best I can, to get them to work as a team and play hard."

Kiss looked very comfortable at the press conference. He handled every question with ease, talked to every media person there, talked to former assistants under Geoff Falk and was relaxed.