Kiss out as Streaks Coach


by John Ring

Mike Kiss, the 30th basketball coach in the history of the Galesburg Silver Streaks basketball program, will be the only one that never coached a single game.

In a surprise announcement on Monday afternoon, Kiss resigned the position he had been appointed to just a week earlier. The veteran coach of the Geneseo Maple Leafs cited "health concerns" as the reason.

A stunned Search Committee, which was ready to recommend Kiss’ appointment at a School Board meeting set to take place hours later, instead scrambled to reconvene and go back to work and find another coach.

"He’s devastated," said Superintendent Gary Harrison of Kiss. "He found out late last week about this problem."

Galesburg Athletic Director Mike Robson was just as surprised as anyone else. "I saw no signs of this coming. He had been calling every day and was enthusiastic about getting the job."

But Kiss drove to Robson’s house on Sunday night and told him about the situation. A press release was then sent out Monday afternoon announcing Kiss’ resignation.

While not a life threatening condition, Kiss told the Quad-City Times that "I have a health situation that needs to be addressed right now. When you coach, you have to bring everything to the table. Right now, I’m unable to do that." Kiss plans on still teaching at Geneseo but will no longer coach.

The Zephyr left numerous phone messages for Kiss at both Geneseo High School and his house last week and on Monday and Tuesday but no calls were ever returned.

"I’m not sure right now what the best thing to do is," said Robson of getting on with naming a coach. "We’re just 24 hours into this. We may open the process up again. The committee will meet very soon, probably later this week."

"We’ll look at the candidates still interested in the position," said Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Leslie O’Melia "but opening the process again is an option."

Kiss met with potential players in his basketball program last week; just nine players turned out. Of the nine, two didn’t play basketball last season and another was ordered to go against his wishes by his parents. While some couldn’t make the meeting because of other sports currently going on, the number was still discouragingly low.

And while Kiss was excited about his new job, many Silver Streak fans were less than enthused about his appointment. Current players, parents and those close to the basketball program were upset that former assistant coach Jeff Houston wasn’t even among the finalists for the position. At least one person was going to speak out in protest at the Board meeting on Kiss’ hiring Monday night. Another upset parent sent a letter to the media not for publication disparaging Kiss and his behavior last season towards a Galesburg player.

The original list of 12 finalists is now decimated. The original choice, Russ Zick of Rochelle, turned the job down. Kiss has now resigned. Mt. Carroll’s Chris Payne was hired by Burlington Central. Sterling’s Luke Yaklich has accepted a job at LaSalle-Peru. Kevin Metzger of East Peoria withdrew his name four days after being interviewed.

That leaves just seven left of the original dozen. Of those seven, two names that keep coming up are Jim Youngman and Jeff Houston.

Youngman was said to be in the final two candidates— along with Kiss— after Zick turned the Streaks down. Now a coach at Highland High School, Youngman formerly coached at Abingdon for three years.

A young coach who guided some talented Commando teams, Youngman came up with The Great Western Shootout— a one-day, annual Shootout at Abingdon involving some of the finest Class A teams in the State— and he also put together a killer schedule for his Commando teams. Youngman has put in for the Streaks job before but what allegedly hurt him this time was an incident concerning a transfer student (6’10" Dan Leadbetter) in Youngman’s last season with Abingdon and close affiliations with scouts who put together summer camps for high school prospects.

When contacted Monday night, Youngman was surprised at the turn of events. "I don’t really want to comment about this until when and if I’m contacted by the committee again," said Youngman.

Houston was a four-year assistant to Geoff Falk, who resigned in March. He never made the final list of the committee despite strong loyalty from returning Silver Streak basketball players. Houston, who built a solid basketball program at YorkWood, was at Thiel Gym the night of Kiss’ press conference to congratulate him.

"That’s the way I am," said Houston. "I try to stay as professional as I can. But I’d be willing to talk to the committee again for the job. What you have to realize is that are not a lot of established coaches who would be willing to come in here and take this job. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and it has to be done at the younger levels. I’m not going anywhere. I’d make the commitment to stay here."

What may have hurt Houston was his close relationship to Falk, who never garnered any favor with Silver Streaks fans. And while Houston admitted there were philosophical differences between he and Falk, it would be incredibly hard— and certainly unethical— for an assistant coach to show any disloyalty during the course of a season.

But Houston has a lot of positives as well. Many parents of Silver Streak players swear by this guy. They see him as a great motivator and also as a fair individual that knows what it takes to compete in the Western Big 6.

"We’ll see what the Administration does or wants to do because their last two choices haven’t worked out for them." said Houston. "I still have options if I don’t get this job. We’ll see how things work out."