LEWISTOWN - After coaching in the Mifflin County School District for 29 consecutive seasons - 27 years at Lewistown Area High School and two more at Mifflin County - girls basketball coach Kevin Kodish has decided to call it a career.
He announced Thursday that he submitted his resignation to the school district, saying that he ultimately decided to dedicate more time to his family and his job as county commissioner.
"Twenty-nine years is a long time. The first 28 years I was traveling to Harrisburg every day and driving back to coach basketball in the evening," he said. "I put a lot of miles on my car and on my personal pedometer as well. My wife spent a lot of lonely winters."
At the outset of Kodish's tenure, he inherited a team with an abysmal record and turned them into a tour de force, having only one losing regular season in 29 - and that was the first year he was at the helm.
"It has been quite a ride," Kodish said when asked to reflect on his career, one which includes two state championships and a state runner-up finish while at Lewistown.
"I am very grateful to all the players, assistant coaches, parents, fans, and school district administrators and board members," he said. "Most importantly, I am thankful to my family (wife Shelly, daughters Katy and Brooke) for lovingly backing me all those years."
When asked what he will miss most about coaching he said, "It will be the day-to-day interaction with the kids. It kept me feeling young."
Kodish's teams won eight District 6 Class AAA championships and finished as the runner-up team in the district eight times. Lewistown teams also brought home 10 Mountain League titles. In total, the Panthers compiled a 568-177 record (.762 winning percentage) in 27 seasons under Kodish.
In two seasons at Mifflin County, the Huskies were a combined 29-17 (.630 winning percentage), bringing his career total to 597-194 (.755).
The Huskies' 11-12 overall finish - which includes a playoff loss after a .500 season - represented the lowest win total for a Kodish-coached team since 2010, his final year at Lewistown and one of two seasons in which the team won only 14 games, including postseason contests. The other was 1992, when the Panthers were 14-11.
By contrast, Kodish coached 15 teams to 20-win seasons. The 1997 state championship team was a perfect 32-0; the Panthers lost just one game in 32 the following season while winning it all again.
"I was blessed to have a lot of talented and dedicated young ladies on my rosters throughout the years," Kodish said. "The state championship teams get the most attention, and rightfully so, but there were many other teams, including the 2004 state runner-up club, that posted outstanding seasons."
Fifteen players eclipsed the 1,000 point mark during Kodish's tenure, with former Duke standout Krista Gingrich leading the way with 2,675 career points.
Kodish offered praise to all of his assistant coaches through the years.
"The assistant coaches help to provide the backbone of the program. This season, the staff consisted of Jim Fosselman, Bruce Brumbaugh and Hannah Geedey at the senior high level. Crystal Weaver, Emily McConnell, Don Lepley and Emily Eckenroth did a great job at the junior high level," he said. "I also want to acknowledge the outstanding work of former senior high assistant coaches Charlie Funk, Neil Renaldi, Aaron Gingrich, Ron Mills, Mike Smith, Jenny Cunningham and Brittney Zimmerman. Their efforts are truly appreciated."
Two of those are varsity coaches today - Gingrich is Mifflin County's boys coach, and Cunningham just completed her first year leading the Mount Union girls program.
Kodish also noted that many others in the community volunteered annually to prepare future players.
"I know I can't name all those volunteers without missing someone, but Steve Feathers probably contributed for many more years than anyone else," Kodish noted. "I appreciate all of those individuals that pitched in over the years."
As Kodish's coaching career has reached its denouement, he feels optimistic for next season's veteran and nascent players.
"It's time to take a step back and let someone else take the reins of the program and go with it," Kodish said regarding his decision to step down. "I will be rooting for the Lady Huskies in the future. A solid nucleus of players returns next season, and a very talented group of ninth graders will be moving up to challenge for playing time.
"It should be an exciting season for everyone!"