Seymour High School didn’t have to look far to find its next varsity boys basketball coach.
The right man for the job has spent countless hours in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium over the past three years but couldn’t be found working from the bench during games.
He works behind the scenes most days and has an office adjacent to the hardwood.
The Seymour Community School Corp. board of trustees announced the hiring of Athletic Director Kirk Manns as the new boys basketball coach during a special school board meeting Wednesday.
“I have learned the burning desire this man possesses for Seymour basketball to succeed,” SHS Principal Greg Prange said. “His organizational skills, effective communication skills and competitiveness are evident in my associations with him regardless of the setting. Mediocre is not good. Settling is not acceptable. Winning is not everything. But being physically prepared, being mentally tough, never backing down to an opponent, being respectful to your opponent, teammates and the game is what is important.”
Manns, who has served as the athletic director at Seymour High School since 2016, will continue in his current role while coaching.
The board said Assistant Athletic Director Dave Urbanski will take on some additional duties within the athletic department with Manns coaching.
“Kirk has evaluated our program for three years,” Seymour interim Superintendent Brandon Harpe said. “He knows our strengths and deficiencies and will hit the ground running as the leader of our program.”
Manns replaces Tyler Phillips, who coached the Owls the past three seasons. Under Phillips, the Owls finished 3-20 during the 2018-19 season. Seymour went 9-15 in Phillips’ first year and 12-12 last winter. Phillips resigned in March.
While he hasn’t coached in three years, Manns has an impressive basketball résumé.
As a high school basketball player at North Judson, he was an Indiana All-Star in 1986 and named First Team All-Indiana in both his junior and senior years. Over those two years, Manns led the state in scoring with 33 points per game as a junior and 34 points in his senior season. The Bluejays were sectional champions in ’86.
He also was an All-State First Team quarterback in 1985-86 on the gridiron. In ‘86, the Bluejays were the state runners-up.
“I played for two really good high school coaches,” Manns said. “Our football coach, Russ Radtke, is one of the winningest coaches in state history. I played for him and learned so much about discipline, hard work and preparation. He kind of molded who I became once I started coaching. “Dave McCollough was my basketball coach. He was just here (in Seymour) with his Shenandoah team. I was fortunate as a young player to have those two people in my life to show me the way. They did much more than coach basketball.”
Manns went on to play collegiate ball at Michigan State University. The Spartans were Big Ten champions and made the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1990. That year, Manns was named All-Big Ten Second Team, averaging 15.3 points per game.
His career high for points was 40 versus Purdue in 1989, and all four seasons of playing, he ranked in the top 10 for 3-point field goal percentage.
“As a player, he was an undersized athlete who played at a high level for a big-time program at Michigan State under Jud Heathcote,” Harpe said. “He also played professionally overseas. He led the IHSAA in scoring two seasons in a row. This is a great opportunity for the youth of Seymour to be coached by someone who has excelled at every level.”
Heathcote left an impact on Manns.
“At Michigan State, Jud Heathcote was an amazing coach and motivator,” Manns said. “He was the most honest man I’ve ever met in my life, and I learned a lot from that. Jud was an amazing teacher of individual development. One of his signature defenses when he won the national championship in 1979 with Magic Johnson was the 2-3 matchup zone. That was something that I was able to learn being there as a player.”
After graduating, Manns played professionally in Stockholm, Sweden, from 1991 to 1992. He led his team in scoring both years.
Manns got right into coaching after his playing days came to a conclusion.
Coaching-wise, Manns was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Western Michigan University from 1993 to 2000. In 1998, the Broncos were crowned the Mid-American Conference champions. The Broncos beat Clemson in the first round of the NCAA tourney that year.
“When my playing career was over, I got into coaching right away,” Manns said. “I worked for coach Bob Donewald (at Western Michigan). Coach became my father-in-law. When I went to work for him, I met my wife, Lisa, and we were eventually married.
“Bob’s history is fascinating. He began as a high school coach in South Bend and was at Indiana on staff with Bob Knight during the time they went undefeated. What he was able to teach me came directly from his experiences with Bob Knight. He was an incredible teacher of the defensive side of things. He taught me about preparing game plans and looking at film.”
From 2001 to 2011, Manns was the head varsity basketball coach at Fredericktown High School in Ohio, where he also was the high school athletic director and assistant principal. The Freddies were sectional champions in 2002, 2009 and 2011 and conference champions in 2007 and ‘11.
From 2011 to 2014, Manns was the athletic director and assistant principal at Madison High School in Ohio. Once Manns took on the job as AD/assistant principal at Madison’s middle school from 2014 to 2016, he returned to coaching as an assistant at Fredericktown.
The past three years, Manns has solely worked as the athletic director at SHS.
“I can’t remember a time in my life where athletics wasn’t a huge part of it,” Manns said. “I played three sports growing up. When my playing days were over, I went into coaching. My few years I didn’t coach, I was still an athletic director. It has always been a big part of who I am. I’ve always felt that it’s important to try and give back as much as you can while you’re here. Coaching is something I’ve always had a passion for. I never gave up on coaching. I thought if a good opportunity and the right situation presented itself again, I would get back into it.”
Prange echoed the impressive tutelage that Manns has worked under as a player and coach.
“He has learned the offensive game from his college coach, Jud Heathcote, and the defensive game from Bob Donewald,” Prange said. “Both names are extremely respected at the collegiate level.”
Manns is the fourth SHS coach since 2013. Scott Miller coached from 2002 to 2013, and Kyle Clough took over from 2014 to 2016 before Phillips was hired in the summer of ‘16.
Manns will be the ninth head coach at Seymour since Lloyd “Barney” Scott coached the Owls’ basketball team from 1961 to 1974.
“This was something that took a lot of thought and consideration,” Manns said. “I was hired as the athletic director at Seymour High School three years ago. I wanted to make sure that is the primary reason I’m here. I have developed good relationships with our coaches here over the past three years.
“We have good programs here. We are currently sitting in third in our league ratings. I have a great assistant, Dave Urbanski. He is going to be asked to do more and is more than willing to do that. The athletic department can’t and will not slip. I think it will strengthen through this — the athletic department and coaches we have here. This (boys basketball) program is a program that we’ve identified needs to step up to some of the other programs.”
The Owls haven’t finished with a record above .500 since the 2006-07 season.
Seymour owns 44 total sectional championships but hasn’t won a title since the 1992-93 season.
“We are fortunate to have such a qualified person to fill the boys basketball head coaching position,” board of trustees athletic council rep John Kelley said. “Having known Kirk for almost three years, I feel that he will be a good role model for kids on and off of the court.”
One of the big focuses for Manns is working with the youth programs in Seymour.
“The youth program is something that we want to continue to build on,” Manns said. “We have some good people. I plan on sitting down with some of those people and finding out more out about it. We want to develop a plan.”
The hope is to bring back elementary basketball and get more involved with the Swish travel program, he said.
“We also need to have a conversation with the Boys and Girls Club and their recreational programs, as well,” Manns said. “None of this is easy or a quick fix. It takes a lot of organization and a lot of good people.”
Manns doesn’t plan on wasting any time in his new role.
“I will be meeting with the kids (today),” he said. “We will have a general conversation and let them know what’s going on. We will then select a coaching staff. We will have conversations with guys that have been here and some that haven’t been here. It’s very important that we put together a coaching staff that can communicate what I want done and understands the type of environment and identity we need and want to be. We will be doing that right away.”
At the same time, the staff will be working on the summer schedule.
“I’m in favor of multiple-sport kids, so we want to make all that work,” Manns said. “We want the kids to have a general idea of where we’re going right now. The priority right now is the kids, coaches and summer program.”
Manns said basketball has given him a lot in life, and he expects it to do the same for his players.
“Hopefully, I can have a huge impact on these young men’s lives, not only on the basketball floor but beyond that,” he said. “For me, it’s talking about expectations. I expect people around me — and myself first and foremost — to control our attitude and effort. That carries over way past the basketball floor.”
Then other expectations will be lined out.
“We expect teams to be together and to trust each other and their coaches,” Manns said. “We expect them to trust their preparation and be energized and know what playing hard looks like. We want a disciplined group of guys. I truly believe the basketball court is nothing more than a tool to provide them the necessary training for later in life. Ultimately, you want to empower young men academically and athletically.”
Coaching goes far beyond Xs and Os and practice plans, Manns said. For him, he said it was an important part of his development as a man.
“Winning and losing will always take care of itself if you take care of all the other things,” he said. “I fully expect to be playing in this gym when it’s full for sectional games, for regional games. That is the expectation. When? I don’t know. I know that the process is something I’m truly interested in and love. I don’t remember a time in my life when the best two hours of the day wasn’t basketball practice.”