While many coaches were worthy of Coach of the Year honors, it came down to winning a state championship in a thrilling upset – and then stepping down. Western Panthers girls basketball coach Chris Keisling took the program to new heights as it shocked the state by knocking off heavily-favored Evansville Mater Dei 38-35 to claim the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
“I am the coach of this team, but it is nothing if these girls don’t go out and flat out execute the things we ask of them,” Keisling said after the game in Terre Haute. “And boy, did they do an outstanding job. We beat such a great, quality opponent. We knew we had a big job in front of us. I can’t say enough about their execution tonight.”
Then, after winning the title, he stepped down as the coach in late April. In three short seasons with the Lady Panthers, Keisling left as the programs most successful coach in history, winning two of the programs six sectional titles and advancing to the Class 3A Final Four twice. He also won the Mid-Indiana Conference title in 2014. Keisling departed the program with a record of 61-15, citing a need to spend more time with his family as a major factor in stepping down. It also marked the seventh time in the last 10 seasons that the Lady Panthers began its season with a different head coach roaming the sidelines. After Cindy Lester’s 14-year reign, the program has had six coaches total only 11 combined seasons.
But for his state championship run – and turning the Lady Panthers into a solid program – Chris Keisling earns the Sports Journal Coach of the Year honors.