A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Walton-Verona’s new boys head basketball coach will be switching sides in long-time district rivalry

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

After spending eight years on the Simon Kenton boys basketball coaching staff, Mike Hester will start his head coaching career with the Pioneers’ long-time district rival.

Hester, 30, was named head coach at Walton-Verona on Monday. He’ll be taking charge of a team that defeated Simon Kenton in the 32nd District final last season and went on to win its first 8th Region championship.

Mike Hester

Over the last three seasons, Walton-Verona has a 4-2 record against Simon Kenton with three of the wins coming in the district playoffs. The winning margin in four of those six games was three points or less.

“It’s definitely going to be tough, knowing the (Simon Kenton) guys and having to go against coach (Trent) Steiner, who is definitely a mentor for me,” Hester said of switching sides in the rivalry. “It’ll be tough, but I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”

Walton-Verona hired Hester to replace Grant Brannen, who resigned in March after taking the Bearcats to the “Sweet 16” state tournament for the first time since 1942. In his six seasons as head coach, the Bearcats compiled a 116-65 record. Over the last three seasons, they went 80-20, won three 8th Region All “A” Classic titles, placed second in the 2018 small-school state tournament and won their first 8th Region post-season championship.

Hester is a 2007 Simon Kenton graduate who also played for coach Steiner. He got a basketball scholarship to Union College and finished out his playing career at Northern Kentucky University in 2011. He then returned to Simon Kenton to pursue a coaching career and will now get a chance to run his own program.

“I feel like it was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “Like I said, coach Steiner has been a great mentor for me.  I got to learn from him and the players and coaches (at Simon Kenton) and that prepared me for this opportunity.”

Hester said he got to talk with some of the returning Walton-Verona players and meet their parents during an open gym at the school on Wednesday. The Bearcats will have a whole new lineup next season since all five starters and four reserve players on the 28-7 regional championship team will graduate this month.

One of those starters was 6-foot-10 center Dieonte Miles, a Xavier University recruit. He was named to the state all-tournament team after the Bearcats lost in the quarterfinals.

“It was just a bunch of younger guys that we had come out (for open gym),” Hester said. “There’s a couple guys playing other sports and they weren’t able to be there, so we’re going to work with the guys we have now and when the other guys are done with their other sports we’ll see what we’ve got.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment