Highlands continues unexpected search for girls basketball coach

Thursday, September 22, 2022 | 9:10 PM

The hiring process to find a new girls basketball coach at Highlands is in its second week after Jason Kerr suddenly stepped down from the position after one year.

“Jason did a good job in his one year as head coach, but we now are moving forward to find the next coach who will lead the program,” Highlands athletic director Drew Karpen said.

Kerr stepped down Sept. 7, and he informed the team of his decision before the open position was posted publicly.

“Ironically, this is more time than we had last year when were looking for both a boys and girls coach a month before the season,” Karpen said.

“We received a couple of applications, and we are continuing the process. We hope to have someone in place soon, but at the same time, we want to make sure we are doing all we can to get the best person for the job.”

Kerr worked with the players over the summer through open gyms and summer league play.

But when the calendar turned from August to September, he said he felt a change in leadership was best for the program moving forward.

“After going through the summer and leading up to the season, it was just better that I step away and allow a fresh set of eyes on things to lead the team over the next couple of years,” Kerr said.

He didn’t elaborate further on his decision.

Kerr, who played at Ford City, coached at District 9’s Redbank Valley and Valley before joining the Highlands staff as an assistant in 2018 under then-head coach Courtney Udanis.

He was elevated to head coach last October.

Highlands enjoyed one of its best seasons in program history last year as it went 19-5 overall, 10-2 in Section 1-4A, and came close to earning a share of the section championship with Knoch.

The Knights (12-0) won the first meeting comfortably, but they went down to the wire with the Golden Rams in the second matchup before coming away with a 56-48 victory.

Highlands rolled past West Mifflin in the WPIAL first round before falling to Southmoreland in the quarterfinals.

Only one starter — guard Maria Fabregas — graduated. Also gone is key reserve forward Jocelyn Luzier.

Junior starters Kalleigh Nerone, Jocelyn Bielek, Kate Myers and Shelby Wojcik return as the team fields new expectations.

“Five years ago, this team won just one game, and last year, they won 19 and were three minutes away from tying Knoch for the program’s first section title since 1974,” Kerr said.

“I was proud of everyone who was involved in that. It was quite the transformation of the program. I can leave knowing that we did what we wanted to do. There is a lot of experience back and a good core who can still do some special things.”

Karpen said fall workouts will be led by junior high coach Katie Jo Stobert, who is the district’s dean of students for the middle school.

“She is going to be helping out, and she does a great job coaching,” Karpen said. “She is familiar to a lot of the players. We got into a Penn Hills fall league, so the girls will have an opportunity to get some good work in and play as a team before the new coach comes in and before the start of preseason practices. It’s important that they are able to stay on top of things and keep on track for what they hope is another really successful season.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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