BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Fans of the Kokomo Wildkats were shocked when news spread that boys head basketball coach Matt Moore had accepted the same position at Fishers High School after three short years at the helm. Moore took over the Kats program in the fall of 2014 and is the 24th coach in the programs 114-year history; he is also the second consecutive boys basketball coach to depart for Hamilton County.
“When they called me three weeks ago, I wasn’t planning on this. I honestly wasn’t,” said Moore after the Hamilton Southeastern Schools board of trustees hired him on April 26. “But for my girls, it is going to be a good situation. I wasn’t unhappy, but big picture family wise, it is a great opportunity.”
Kokomo High School Athletic Director Jason Snyder said Moore will be missed, and the search for a replacement will start immediately.
“We wish him and his family the absolute best,” said Snyder. “The Moore family has become a part of our school community and we are grateful for their time and efforts.”
Moore arrived in Kokomo from the small college coaching ranks at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio (NAIA). He immediately started the “Drive for 75” campaign in an effort to add to the Wildkats record of 74 sectional championships. Unfortunately, that never materialized. In three seasons, Kokomo was 42-31 and 1-3 in tournament action.
Last season, Kokomo showed vast improvement. With most predicting a 10 to 12-win season, the Kats finished 18-7 during the regular season. Kokomo was third in the North Central Conference (6-3), trailing Class 4A No. 3 Logansport and No. 5 McCutcheon. After winning nine consecutive games to close the regular season, Kokomo knocked off Lafayette Jeff in the first round of the sectional before falling to McCutcheon.
In NCC action, the Kats finished 10-12 under Moore. But the coach believes he is leaving the Wildkat basketball program in good shape.
“One thing I take pride in, in terms of how I took the program over three years ago and how I am leaving it now; I think we moved it forward,” said Moore. “I think the program is in a healthy place right now. They have learned discipline and team basketball and they have competed at a high level consistently.”
Snyder said he appreciated the efforts Moore made in working with the younger players coming up through the system.
“We appreciate all of the time and effort Coach Moore put into the program,” said Snyder. “He put time in with students at each age level, and the program is in a good place right now with players in high school, in middle school coming up, and in the Future Wildkats league.”
Moore now joins former Kokomo coach and alumnus Brian McCauley in the competitive Hamilton County region. Moore replaced McCauley at Kokomo after the former coach departed for Noblesville. Moore will join McCauley in playing in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference with Avon, Brownsburg, Hamilton SE, Westfield and Zionsville.
Moore’s new sectional will not be a cakewalk either – last year it featured Anderson, Carmel, Fishers, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton SE, Noblesville and Westfield. He takes over the Tigers program from Joe Leonard, who led the team for 10 years (113-110). Moore inherits a team that was 10-14 a year ago and has had two winning seasons in the last six years.
“You know, you want to know if you are a good coach,” Moore said of the competition of the HCC. “I don’t know if I am a good coach, but I believe I work hard at what I do and I want to see if it is in the cards or not. I think I have the energy level and the patience to build it the right way.”
He also said he loved being a Kokomo Wildkat and will always cherish his time wearing the red and blue.
“I loved every minute of it,” said Moore, who is known for wearing three-piece suits on game nights. “The fans and the Friday nights and the Kat Bus – I will miss all of that. Kokomo is a special place. There are so many little things that make Wildkat basketball special. The fans, both at home and on the road, were very supportive of us. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to touch it and make good friends along the way.”
Moore, a Columbia City native, previously served as the junior varsity head coach at Logansport High School for three seasons and as a varsity assistant to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Al Rhodes. In between Logansport and MVNU, Moore returned to his alma mater and served as head assistant men’s basketball coach and director of sports information at Grace College. His wife, Anna, is the KHS girls varsity tennis coach and they have three daughters.