One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for April 10, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
I have met a lot of leaders and dynamic personalities in my career in higher education and college athletics. I met an interesting man in the 1990’s that I still stay in contact with today. His name is Leo Kirk. When I met Leo he had just become the associate commissioner of the Big South Conference. At that time the Big South was utilizing space at Winthrop University that had recently been vacated by the Carolina Panthers in the spring of 1996. The Big South was in transition of moving from Myrtle Beach, SC to Charlotte, NC. In that transition they took up shop at Winthrop and I got to know Leo, his wife Linda and two children Alex and Whitney. In fact the two Kirk children attend our basketball camp at Winthrop and Alex even earned a nickname “Killer Crossover Kirk”. Alex was just 11 or 12 at the time he came to our camps but you could tell he had a love for the game.
Leo Kirk has had an interesting career working for a NCAA Division I conference, NCAA Division I universities, serving as general manager for a professional baseball team called the New Jersey Jackals, and being a national salesman for a Washington State wine called Kestrel Wines out of Prosser, WA. Today he is president of Kirk Wine Sales in Prosser, WA.
His GM job with the NJ Jackals was interesting. The Jackals was a member of the Northeast League, an independent professional baseball league. The Jackals parent organization was Floyd Hall Enterprises, LLC, a privately held company whose mission is to provide quality entertainment in the most modern facilities at a reasonable price. The company’s owned Yogi Berra Stadium and Floyd Hall Arena on the Montclair State University (NJ) campus. Leo did a great job for the team. In 1998 he was voted GM of the year in the Northeast League. The league folded in 2004 but the NJ Jackals still exist playing in the CanAm Baseball League.
The interesting thing about the NJ Jackals was there owner was and still is Floyd Hall who is the former CEO of Kmart from 1995-2001. The team still plays in Yogi Berra Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University.
Leo has a lot of interesting careers but one consistent is his love and admiration for his wife and 2 children Whitney who works for Liberty Mutual as senior business analyst. His son Alex has become a talented college head basketball coach at Clark College in Vancouver, WA.
The Friend – LEO KIRK
The Friend – ALEX KIRK
Former Camper turned Coach
Alex Kirk was destined to be a coach. He was consumed by the sport and I loved to watch him as an 11-year-old camper at Winthrop University demonstrate his ball handling and passing skills.
When he dad moved to NJ Alex continued to grow as a basketball player. His family moved to Prosser, WA and Alex attended HS there and also went to The Hill School, a prep institution in Pottstown, Pa., in 2004…All-Mid-Atlantic Prep League selection averaging 7.8 assists per game and 3.8 to 1 assist/turnover ratio……named to three all-tournament teams while there. After The Hill School Alex became a PAC 12 basketball player at Washington State. He graduated from college and began to pursue his basketball coaching dream. For six years Alex became entrenched in the Portland/Vancouver basketball communities.
Then in 2012 Clark College a two-year school in Vancouver, WA hired him.
Alex brought to Clark a process driven approach with an emphasis on the simple yet complex task of getting better each day. “For us it’s about the daily process of getting better rather than the end results,” Alex was quoted as sating at the time of his appointment. “If our body of work is good enough, the results will take care of themselves.” Alex’s journey as a college head coach started at Clark College on May 3, 2012 when he was named the program’s head coach. In four short months Kirk recruited eleven new players, including a top 150 recruit, and three new assistant coaches.
Three years later, the program’s overall body of work would indicate that the process is working. Under Alex’s tutelage, the Penguins have gone 66-19, amassing a 78% winning percentage during his three years at the helm. The 2013-14 Clark College Penguins went 27-2 on the year and were only the 2nd team in NWAC history to compile a perfect 16-0 record in West Region play. Additionally the team had a 21-game winning streak from November to March and placed at the NWAC tournament for the first time since 1995. On the year, the Penguins led the NWAC in scoring defense, three-point field goal percentage and overall scoring margin. For all the team success, Kirk was named NWAC West Coach of the Year.
Not sure what specifically Alex’s coaching future holds but I believe it is bright. I wouldn’t bet against a college coach with a nickname like “Killer Crossover Kirk”.