Kirk retires from Allegany College

June 12, 2004|By BOB PARASILITI

Jim Brown pumped home the final buzzer beater.

"All good things have to come to an end," the former Hagerstown Community College basketball coach said.

The best of times in Western Maryland sports came to an official and definite end on Thursday as Allegany College basketball coach Bob Kirk retired after 33 years on the Trojans' bench.

Kirk's retirement ends the final chapter of the classic Allegany College-Hagerstown Community College basketball showdowns, which had become cornerstones of the local athletic calendar through the 1980s and '90s.

The rivalry, as the fans knew it, started to end after the 2001-02 season when Brown retired after 23 years at HCC.


"I think Bob Kirk and Jim Brown probably gave Washington and Allegany counties the best athletic competitions ever to be seen and will be seen in this area," Brown said. "There were some great games and some great competition."

Kirk retired as Allegany's coach but will remain the school's athletic director and director of the physical education department.

In his tenure, which started in 1971, Kirk led Allegany to national prominence with a 927-158 record which produced 12 NJCAA national tournament berths, including two appearances in the championship final game. Allegany had won six district titles, 17 Region XX titles, 24 Maryland JuCo Conference regular season championships and 17 conference tournament titles.

"His program would have to be compared to what Duke is on the Division I level in East Coast basketball," Brown said. "He was a tough cookie to beat on the floor."

Kirk turned Allegany's program into a springboard for a number of players. Steve Francis, Eric Mobley and John Turner started in Cumberland, Md., before heading into the NBA. Meanwhile, Francis, Rudy Archer, Tom "Speedy" Jones, Ryan Randle, Jamar Smith and now Sterling Ledbetter, a member of Kirk's last Trojan team, have gone on to the University of Maryland.

Brown and Kirk matched wits for as many as four games a year over the 23-year span. HCC was able to sidetrack the Trojans from heading to Hutchinson, Kan., for the national tournament on only two occasions.

The Allegany-HCC rivalry carried much emotion over the years as Trojan fans would stream down U.S. 68 for games at Hagerstown's athletic complex. They were usually the best attended and most intense games of the season.

HCC fans would return the favor at Trojan Square Garden, where the Trojans dominated with a 129 home-court winning streak in the 80s, but Hawk fans didn't turn out in the same numbers.

And now, after Kirk's Thursday announcement, the faces will change and so will the feeling of the rivalry. Kenny Keyes replaced Brown in 2003 while Allegany will begin its search for Kirk's replacement.

"You can say it's the end of an era," Brown said. "But, you could also say it opens the door for another one to start. With the competitive environment, coaches can't do it all by themselves. They need a lot of help."

The Herald-Mail Articles