Donnie Kirksey hired as UIC assistant
Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter has heard plenty of Division I basketball programs say they're going to give Chicago Public League coaches a look in their hiring process. Slaughter has found more often than not that message is untrue.
That's why on Wednesday, Slaughter was excited over the news that newly named UIC coach Howard Moore dipped into the Public League to name Hyde Park coach Donnie Kirksey as an assistant.
"I'm ecstatic, not only because they hired a competent person from the Public League, but also that the Public League was a real value for them vs. paying lip service to the Public League," Slaughter said. "I'm 1,000 percent for this hiring. At Whitney Young, we'll do whatever we can to support coach Moore and that staff to resurrect that program.
"Donnie is well-respected. I think he's going to do a phenomenal job. I think Howard got it right. I'm very happy for him."
Kirksey spent the past three seasons as the varsity coach at Hyde Park, where he built a 71-18 record. He also has college coaching experience as an assistant at DePaul for 1 1/2 seasons under coach Pat Kennedy and two years at Chicago State with Bo Ellis.
Kirksey had pursued other college assistant openings in the past few years, but he didn't find any of them to be a good fit. With UIC, he believed he had it all.
"It's an opportunity to stay in my hometown and help turn a program around," Kirksey said. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's a big plus that coach Moore came in and reached out for a Public League guy. I think that shows he's committed himself to working here and trying to get the best talent out of the city of Chicago."
Kirksey's Public League ties will be depended on in recruiting.
"I think what I bring in are a lot of relationships and relationships built in the Public League," Kirksey said. "I can build relationships and can reach out. I think some of the friendships that I have will be a plus.
"During this process, the Public League coaches really stuck together. Tyrone Slaughter, Rob Smith, Vince Carter, those guys really supported me, and they spoke up for me."
Slaughter is hopeful Kirksey's hiring will lead to more college programs giving Public League coaches a chance.
"I firmly believe other people are going to look into the Public League," Slaughter said. "We not only can coach kids in the Public League, but we can coach, recruit and help guide programs at any level.
"The perception of Public League coaches is somewhat outdated now. This will move programs to take much harder looks at the Public League."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.