Going Green: Musketeers name Ruggles new girls basketball coach

May 1—Kirk Ruggles already had 63rd District basketball coursing through his veins.

A new coaching gig has his blood pumping once again.

Ruggles was named the new girls basketball coach at Greenup County on Tuesday. The Musketeers program endured and persevered after facing a coaching change days before the 2023-24 season started. Ruggles wants to bring cohesiveness and longevity to a team that has already shown their ability to fight through adversity.

"You can't say enough about the job, top to bottom, their staff did last year being thrown into a difficult situation," Ruggles said. "I don't know that another staff could have handled that any better. It's kudos to Kacey (Carver), her staff, and also to those kids. The kids bought in very quickly. If you compare that season to seasons prior, I think they had a great year."

Ruggles is a former basketball player and a 1994 graduate of Tollesboro High School. He was part of the last graduating class before it consolidated with Lewis County later that summer. He starred at Fleming County before transferring to the Wildcats after his sophomore season.

While at Tollesboro, Ruggles played with cousin and future coaching colleague, Jay Fite. Ruggles coached the boys basketball team for two seasons at Tollesboro Christian School. Ruggles eventually joined Fite's staff at Lewis County in 2010 and spent the last 14 years working with the Lions' girls squad.

Ruggles said Fite became a coaching mentor. Lewis County won three districts during their time together. Ruggles wants to bring Fite's defensive mentality with him to Lloyd. He's witnessed it every day they've shared on the basketball court.

"We've always conversed back and forth about it," Ruggles said. "Philosophically, we may be a little bit different. Jay has always been a defensive guy. Jay was my point guard and he was always getting me the ball. Another post player and I would get the headlines and sometimes it would not work out to Jay's benefit. I couldn't ask for a better friend and brother. It's been amazing to coach alongside him."

"To carry something on with me, I guess I need to learn something defensively," he added. "Anybody that's ever watched me play would swear that I never played defense. In 14 years at Lewis, we have done some special things. When they played us, everybody knew we would do things the right way."

Ruggles feels he's prepared to take on the role of head coach again. During his early discussion with Greenup County, he brought a vision for what the program could become. He wants to be involved with basketball at every level. The long progression can mold a player to be fully prepared to compete on the varsity level.

"When we interviewed, I had a plan that I would love to implement," Ruggles said. "It would consist of rolling things over with elementary school kids. If I look at a kid at Greenup County who's in first grade, that's 11 years. In 11 years, I'm not 48 anymore. I'm pushing 60. I would like to roll it over a couple of times then hand off a top-notch program to the next person."

"We want to have a hand in everything, top to bottom," he continued. "I want to implement elementary programs and middle school programs. I would love to have a situation where we would call up a middle-school kid to play freshman, JV or varsity. When they come to a varsity practice, they say this is what we are doing in middle school. I think it makes everything more cohesive."

The idea left an impression on the school and athletic administration at Greenup County.

"Kirk is the one for the job," Chelsea Delong, the school's athletic director, said in a post on the school's Facebook page, "not only because of his knowledge but also his understanding and tenacious desire to build our program from the bottom up."

According to the KHSAA website, the Musketeers only had one senior last year and return several starters, including leading scorers and rebounders Kennedy Spencer (10.9 ppg), Dharia Crum (9.1) and Maddy Steele (4.9).

Ruggles likes to get up and down the floor, filling the scoreboard with points. He will incorporate a style of play when preparations begin this summer.

Russell has had a strange hold on the 63rd District. The Red Devils have won the last nine district titles and currently hold a 68-game winning streak against district opponents.

Ruggles expects his team to be competitive right away and hopefully, have a breakout year.

"I'm excited about what we have coming back," Ruggles said. "I think we can have a couple of girls with an edge in Crum and Spencer. ... Addison Branim, Steele and all the kids had those infectious smiles when I met with them. They are tickled to be here and they will want to be part of this program long term. We are going to work extremely hard but we are also going to have a lot of fun."

Ruggles is married to Leigh Ann. They have three daughters, Tori, Skyler and Olivia, along with two granddaughters and one grandson.

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