The search for the next coach of the Royals is over.
Mason County named Brian Kirk the next boys’ basketball coach on Monday during a press conference at the high school.
“From the culture, to the tradition that Mason County’s had over the years – that’s really what’s stuck out to me and really what drew me and my interest to this program. Playing in front of crowds like Mason County – there’s no better thing than that. When you’re hosting the 39th District, when you’re hosting the 10th Region Tournament, the environment here is an environment you don’t receive anywhere else, or you don’t get anywhere else,” said Kirk.
“With that being said, this gym here, it’s more and it’s bigger than life within itself. Today, it’s not necessarily about me. It’s not about what I’m sitting up here saying. Today is the new beginning to a program that I’m very excited for, and the future of Mason County Royals is what I’m excited about,” added Kirk. “With a lot of hard work, I want to fill this gym with Royal passion and enthusiasm, to provide young men with the same foundation of respect and high morals, to give this community a basketball program to value and, of course along the way, some great basketball and a lot of great wins to come.”
The Royals were on the search since April 20, when previous coach Buddy Biggs resigned from the position.
Kirk comes over from Augusta, where he coached the past three seasons, leading the Panthers to a 47-38 record during his tenure to go with a 39th District Championship in 2016 and a 10th Region runner-up finish in the same year.
“Augusta has provided me a lot of great things up to this point, but I feel in life there’s opportunities for you to grow and develop, as these student-athletes will throughout their career here at school and in their future, so I think looking back on it, I think Augusta will always be a place that I cherish a lot about,” said Kirk.
“I have a lot of great memories there, a lot of great things I will never forget, but when you consider a program like Mason County – sometimes opportunities only come around once in a lifetime. When I started in the career of coaching, I had certain places that I had in mind of being at. Obviously one of them was at Augusta, and the second one here at Mason County,” added Kirk. “Augusta had provided me that opportunity to come home, coach, continue to grow as an individual and they have provided me the opportunity to be where I am today.”
Kirk is a 2004 graduate of Augusta, departing as the school’s all-time leading scorer at the time and going on to play at Union College. He’d go on to earn his Master’s of Arts in teaching degree for Health and Physical Education from Morehead State University.
After graduating college, Kirk was a middle school coach at Barbourville Independent and an assistant at Knox County Central for two years. He was also the head boys’ basketball coach at Burgin for three years before coming to Augusta.
He becomes the 11th head coach in Mason County history, according to the Mason County basketball history book. Biggs coached the last three seasons, leading the Royals to a 57-41 record during his time, including a 10th Region title in 2016 and back-to-back district titles in ’17 and ’18.
According to assistant athletic director Chris Ullery, there were close to 35 applicants for the position. A search committee consisting of Jonathan Thomas, Chris O’Hearn, Seth Faulker and Fred Hester helped with the hiring of Kirk.
“A few things stood out with coach Brian Kirk. The first thing is we really, really liked listening to what he had to say in regards to what he stands for and as well as what he’s not going to stand for. Those were things the committee was very, very impressed with,” said Ullery. “We know him, the character and type of man, the type of husband and the type of coach he is. He’s a very, very high quality gentleman, a great person and he’s going to be a great leader for our student-athletes.”
Several players were released from the 2017-2018 Mason County boys’ basketball team for disciplinary reasons, but Kirk said it was not necessarily a focus of discussion during the hiring process.
“I just feel like coming in it’s a new start for all of these kids,” said Kirk. “Sometimes that’s what young student-athletes need and I feel like I’m very capable of handling that situation.”
Kirk, who would like to get the team more involved in the community, believes the first step as head coach will be building relationships with his players, who he met with following Monday’s press conference in the Mason County High School library.
“Getting with the kids, understanding what motivates them, really finding out what encourages those kids to go hard, because relationships in this career is what’s most important,” said Kirk. “Relationships are going to be what builds these student athletes to be fine young men that I want them to become in the future.”
Kirk says he has reached out to a few other coaches to gauge interest in joining his staff at Mason County. It is something he plans to continue working on over the next few weeks. The Royals already had a summer plan in place under Biggs, but Kirk will be making a couple of minor changes. They’re scheduled to begin the summer program at the beginning of June.