By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It’s currently a breath of fresh air.
But the search committee saw Kevin Listerman as the leader with the qualities to bring the once-proud program back into prominence in Northern Kentucky. Thus, the committee named him the new Highlands Head Boys Basketball Coach on Wednesday.
“I am very excited to continue the tradition of excellence, both academically and athletically, at Highlands,” Listerman said in a release. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to have an impact on both the students and community of Fort Thomas.”
Listerman currently teaches Biology and is an Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach at Cincinnati Colerain. Listerman will take the same teaching position next school year. He owns more than nine years of teaching experience at the high school level that also includes Anatomy, Physiology and Advanced Placement Chemistry.
Listerman said the program can be successful again, even with the success of the football team. Many of the players also played football and helped the Bluebirds to six consecutive state championships.
The number of students can help the cause. The school’s enrollment is about 800 students.
“The biggest thing is the kids are going to see my enthusiasm and energy,” Listerman said. “They have to make a choice to be committed to making it a successful program. The Fort Thomas community wants and demands excellence. I feel like things are in place for the program to be successful.”
Listerman, 35, played basketball at Covington Catholic graduating in 1995 and Northern Kentucky University. Listerman earned his undergraduate degree from NKU in 1999 and Masters in 2002. In four years playing at Northern, the Norse appeared in four NCAA Division II Basketball Tournaments including two NCAA National Championship games.
Before going to Colerain, Listerman served as an assistant at Northern Kentucky University and Covington Catholic. He had one-year stints as Head Coach at Bellevue and Boone County combining to go 43-16. Listerman coached the Tigers to a 17-12 mark in 2002-03 and the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division III crown before coaching the Rebels to a 26-4 mark the following year. The Rebels won the 33rd District before losing to Covington Catholic in the 9th Region title game. At that time, the Colonels were coached by his father Mike, currently an assistant at Holmes.
Listerman is also the head coach of a minor league basketball team in the Kentucky Basketball Developmental League. He was the league’s coach of the Year in 2008.
“Our committee was very excited to find such an outstanding teacher and coach,” said Brian Robinson, Highlands Principal. “We feel that Kevin will be a tremendous addition to our science department and just the right person to build an elite basketball program. His record of success, commitment to excellence, and enthusiasm for impacting young people in a positive way makes us feel fortunate to have him as part of our learning community.”
Listerman said he learned two things from his dad coaching-wise. That’s to teach and always find positives.
Listerman fills in for veteran Head Coach Mike Flynn, who stepped down in March after going 50-61 in four years. During that time, the Bluebirds made two 9th Region Tournament appearances losing to Dixie Heights in the first round in 2011 and Lloyd Memorial in 2012 in the same round.
“Kevin has made a tremendous, positive impact on every school that he has been associated with as a player, teacher and coach,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Director of Athletics. “He is a man of outstanding character and a great role model for young people. We are truly blessed that he will be a member of the Highlands community and lead our basketball program.”
Highlands graduated four players from this past year’s team that finished 12-16 and lost to Newport Central Catholic in the first round of the 36th District Tournament, including Luke Turner. Turner averaged 11.3 points per contest.
The Bluebirds will return starters Nick True and Drew Houliston. Houliston averaged 11.3 points per contest and True averaged six rebounds. Other players like Parker Harris showed promise last year.
“We hope (the coaching change) motivates people to come out,” said Todd Ramey, Highlands junior. “He’s young and energetic. We hope he changes our enthusiasm in practice knowing we’re starting over.”
Listerman said he’s not decided on any assistants or what style of play to implement yet. But he prefers to play pressure defense and an up-temp offense. However, he said they will play to their strengths.
Listerman met with the returning players Thursday. Houliston said his positivity resonated throughout the room.
“I think he’s going to bring a lot more wins,” Houliston said. “He’s motivated. He had a great career at CovCath and NKU so he definitely knows how to get us better.”
The Bluebirds last won a district championship in 2008 and last won the region in 2001. Between 1997 and 2001, Highlands won the 9th Region four out of five years and finished state runner-up in 1997.