A content smile rested on Kevin Kanaskie’s face after he was announced as the new coach of the Ottumwa boys basketball program Wednesday afternoon at Ottumwa High School.
Kanaskie, who holds the all-time record in assists — and starts, games played and minutes played — at Middle Tennessee State University, where he played point guard from 2005-2009; expressed how excited he is to take the reins of the Bulldog program.
“If I could move to Ottumwa tomorrow, I would,” he said.
Kanaskie played briefly for Dowling Catholic High School before he moved on to have a sterling career at State College Area High School in Pennsylvania.
“We are excited to bring someone with his knowledge and experience of the game. He’ll bring a lot of energy to the program,” said Ottumwa athletic director Tom Kopatich.
Though all eyes were fastened on the new coach, he made it clear this would be a one-time event — from this point on everything is about the team. While he answered questions, Kanaskie, whose dad Kurt Kanaskie coached Drake University from 1996-2003 and now is an assistant coach for Virginia Tech, communicated his affinity for hard man-to-man defense, as he said he would like to see his team “pressure the ball.” The coach, who will replace Chris Gravett, who spent five years as head of the Bulldog program; said he isn’t opposed to employing a zone defense when the situation calls for it.
Offensively, Kansaskie said he would like to see Ottumwa get out and run the floor when the opportunity presents itself. But when fast break chances are rare, the coach has a predilection for the motion offense. Kanaskie, however, said he will evaluate his players to see what offense would be a good fit for the team collectively.
Before he took the job at Ottumwa, Kanaskie served as a graduate assistant coach for Quincy, Ill., University and a freshman basketball coach at Waukee High School.
To resurrect the Bulldog program from its current state, Kanaskie wants to build from the ground up. And, he said he wants to do this by creating solid youth programs — so he familiarizes as many young basketball players in the region with the program at an early age.
Kanaskie answered a few questions about some of his returning players at the conference, namely Carter Burns and point guard Andrew Altfillisch.
“He’s going to have to score,” Kanaskie said about Burns. “When he’s not scoring he needs to be making other people better.”
The coach said, because of their inexperience, some of the mistakes Burns, Altfillisch and company made last year were youthful mistakes that will hopefully be lessened now that so many Bulldogs have another year of varsity level experience behind them. Of the 15 Bulldogs who suited up last season, 12 will return.