RUSSIAVILLE — When Chris Keisling was hired as the girls basketball coach at Western in the fall of 2011, he inherited a program in a state of flux.
The Panthers were turning to their seventh coach since the turn of the century.
Keisling provided the stability the program desperately needed, and in the process, helped the squad maximize its potential on the grandest of stages.
After guiding Western to a Class 3A state championship this past season, Keisling announced Friday morning he would step down, a decision that was family-driven.
“I have four kids,” he explained. “One daughter lives in Jasper. I have another daughter that’s off at [college], and my son Austin is getting ready to go off to college and play basketball. I do know that college basketball and high school girls basketball schedules don’t mesh too well. That’s a factor. My other son Sean is getting married in July. So, it’s a chance to be freed up.”
Keisling led the Western girls program to heights it had never before enjoyed, leading the Panthers to their first sectional title since 1989 in his first season, the 2011-12 campaign. Western went on to claim its first regional title one week later, and finished the year with a 19-7 record.
After a 19-5 record in his second season, the veteran Panthers returned for the 2013-14 campaign with high expectations. They delivered with the best season in program history.
A Mid-Indiana Conference title was quickly followed by the squad’s second sectional and regional titles in three seasons. The Panthers then downed Norwell for their first semistate title, and one week later, stunned Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 3A state championship, 38-35, at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute to finish the season 23-3.
Western went 61-15 in Keisling’s three seasons, winning an outstanding 80 percent of its games in that stretch.