GREENTOWN - IU Kokomo women’s basketball is turning a new leaf in 2021 with the hire of head coach John Kenger from Lourdes University, but now Kenger is hiring a familiar face from the area as an assistant coach.
Andy Steele has served the last four years as the girl’s basketball coach at Eastern High School, and two as an assistant for the boys’ team before that. But an opportunity arose that he couldn’t refuse. He knew IUK was hiring both a head coach and an assistant coach following Colie Shelwick and Whitney Shaffer’s departures. After Kenger was hired, things started to line up pretty quickly, he said, and before he knew it, he was getting hired on as well.
“Once they hired [Kenger], I sent him a message through Twitter just saying, ‘Hey, congratulations, I know there’s some talent here. These girls are hardworking from what I’ve noticed,’” Steele said. “He actually was like, ‘Hey, actually why don’t you come in and we’ll talk about the assistant job?’”
Steele was a bit resistant at first, he said, but after talking to his family and Eastern head coach Mike Springer, who had experience in this situation as well, all parties were saying, “Go for it.”
Moving on to the college level in a competitive NAIA River States Conference is both amazing and exciting, Steele said, and he can’t wait to travel more while coaching at a high level.
The best part? He doesn’t have to move, leave his home or the Eastern community. It was the perfect situation for him, he said.
“My roots are still there. We still have a house there and we’re not moving. My wife is still the J.V. volleyball coach there, she teaches there. My kids are still there going to school. I still want to try and get to as many of the boys and girls games as I can,” Steele said. “I want to keep in touch with Coach Springer as much as possible. He’s done this before, and I always like to bounce ideas off of him.”
Talking with Kenger, Steele said the two share a lot of the same values as coaches. In his short tenure at IUK, Steele said Kenger has the team bought-in and ready to get back to basketball this season.
Steele likes what he sees on the roster as well, he said. The team is full of experienced and hungry ballers who were unable to play the vast majority of 2020 due to the pandemic. Most of them are returning, ready to make up for lost time.
“With having a new coach and a system, he’s got his certain defenses he wants to run and he’s got his certain offenses he wants to run. So I’ve gotten those down, and the basketball mindsets of these girls are really high. I don’t have to instruct as much as I used to,” Steele said. “These girls, if they’re not sure about something, they don’t hesitate. They will ask a question. They want it right the first time. I’m so glad I’ve taken the opportunity to do this. It’s been a big welcome for me. The girls have been great and the coach has been great welcoming me into the program.”
Kenger was excited about bringing on Steele as well.
To have someone from the area who knows Kokomo, can help with local recruiting, and simply knows basketball, it can only make for good results, he said.
“I was excited about working with Coach Steele. He is a local guy that has some solid connections in the area,” Kenger said. “He brings excitement and fresh ideas to the program, and Coach Steele is a true student of the game and has jumped right in without skipping a beat. We are thrilled to have him on board.”
Steele will remain in Greentown, travel throughout the River States Conference, and continue teaching at Maconaquah High School. The school has been generous and flexible as he’s pursued his different coaching endeavors, and for that he’s grateful, he said.
Kokomo is as strong a sports town as any, he said, and there’s nowhere Steele would rather be than IU Kokomo.
“I want my daughters to see what hard work and dedication can get you in life. These players at IUK will teach them that,” Steele said.