“I knew coming in that Western was a good situation,” he said. “Certainly as I got to know the players and was working with them, I knew we were going to have something special.”
Keisling’s first Western squad went 19-7 and won Class 3A sectional and regional titles — the deepest tournament run in program history at the time. The Panthers followed with a 19-5 record last season.
The Panthers have reached new heights this season with their first semistate title and a program-record 22 wins. Four of the starters have been with Keisling throughout his three seasons. The Panthers are 60-15 over that span.
Keisling owns a 145-62 record as a high school coach. He previously was the boys coach at Tri-County for three seasons in the early 1990s and the boys coach at Northfield for three seasons later in the ‘90s.
“Chris brings a lot of different coaching experiences to the table,” Western AD Josh Larsh said. “I think his biggest strength is he meshes well with the players. Obviously, there is a lot of talent [on Western’s squad], but there is something to be said for being able to coach and manage a lot of talent and handle high expectations. He and the team have been able to accomplish what no other team at Western has ever been able to do.”
Keisling’s time in the boys ranks came before class basketball. He led Tri-County to a sectional title in 1993 (at Twin Lakes) and Northfield to a sectional title in 1997 (at Huntington North).
Keisling recalled the excitement of leading Tri-County into a regional semifinal matchup vs. Lafayette Jeff at the Crawley Center.
“We had 250 kids in high school and we were playing Lafayette Jeff, which was close to 2,500,” he recalled with a chuckle. “We almost got them toward the end. We had a 3 to tie with about a minute to, then we had to foul and the point spread ended up being around 10.”