Western Hills hires Don Irvine as girls basketball coach

By Emily Patton Published:

Retirement didn’t suit Don Irvine. In fact, he came out of it after only a few months away to accept the title of the new head coach of Western Hills’ girls basketball team.

Irvine officially accepted the position on Tuesday and met with potential players on Wednesday afternoon.

“While I was out doing this retirement thing, I missed it,” Irvine said. “They always said the biggest thing I’d miss when I retired from coaching is when the phone quit ringing. Everyone always wanted to know how the team would do, who would play, what I thought about next week, and all of a sudden, nobody cared what I was doing.”

Irvine said his father passed away during his last week of school at Burgin, a small independent high school in Mercer County, and his two sons were both enrolled in college. 

“I had said, ‘OK, I’ll do retirement,’ but I didn’t like it,” Irvine said. “My job was gone at Burgin and after I settled (late father’s) estate, I started looking for work in June and July. The Western Hills job came along and we just clicked.”

Irvine’s resume reveals what he calls an “odyssey” of experience, in his faithful attempt to return closer to Somerset where his parents are from. While he was still in college working at Madison Central, he said the idea came to him to work as a basketball coach. Irvine researched and called “all the worst teams in Kentucky,” asking if they needed someone new.

He began his career working at Augusta for two years, then served at Burgin for three years, McLean County for three years, Augusta for another 10 years, Danville for a one-year stint and back to Burgin where he has been for the last 11 years. Irvine has coached both boys and girls high school basketball, sometimes both stimultaneously, and taught physical education and English. 

During Irvine’s last season at Burgin, he coached the boys basketball team to a historic season of 22 wins, the highest win total since 1941. 

Irvine took over for Jody Hellard, who resigned in July to take another job. During Hellard’s two years in control of the Lady Wolverines, they went 13-44 and finished last season 5-26.

“I’m tickled to be a part of this,” Irvine said. “All I’ve heard is just how enthusiatic they are to have some success. We are going to take that and run with it.”

When Irvine met with the athletes interested in playing this season, three sophomores, four juniors, three seniors and “a whole bunch” of freshmen showed up. But the youthful prospects didn’t faze the new coach.

“I’ll be learning with them a whole lot,” he said. “All my experience with coaching girls’ teams has been wonderful. I had a good girls team at Burgin for a couple years. We won a district in Augusta one year. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences.”

Irvine said he has already looked at the schedule, which he noted as “tough.” The team plays 30 games and his goal is to win all 30.

“We are going to try to make it enjoyable,” he said. “We will work hard to strive for success by playing together. There is no big secret. I don’t know if my philosophy is anything special, but to enjoy it.”

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