Fifteen years ago, Derek Cooksey began student-teaching for Ivan McGlone at Russell.
Sometimes life features full-circle moments.
For Cooksey, that moment is now. He has resigned as Fairview’s boys basketball coach after 10 seasons. He has accepted teaching and coaching positions at Russell. He’ll lead a social studies class and assist newly hired Tom Barrick on the Red Devils’ varsity hoops staff.
“This is a great opportunity, professionally,” said Cooksey, who aspires to one day become a principal.
Brett Cooksey, Derek’s younger brother, is Fairview’s acting head coach, according to Fairview High School principal Eric Hale. Brett Cooksey is also the football coach. The Eagles begin summer roundball tonight.
Hale said Derek Cooksey will be missed.
“More than anything else, he’s loyal to the kids,” Hale said. “I knew over the last six years that I’ve been principal, we’ve had some challenges we’ve faced, but one thing I could count on was Derek Cooksey doing what he needed to do for our basketball program. He just loves being around the kids and loves the game. You blend the two of them, and you have Derek Cooksey. He’s a top-notch individual and a top-notch educator.”
Rick Griffith, a former Fairview’s girls basketball coach, Boyd County boys assistant and Kentucky women’s hoops assistant, will join Barrick and Cooksey on the sideline.
“Coach Barrick is a (OHSBCA) Hall-of-Fame coach,” Cooksey said. “I thought it was time to step outside of my comfort zone and take this on.”
Cooksey employed a hands-on approach at every level in Westwood.
“He was visible — at elementary games, middle school games, practices; he’d work with coaches all throughout the feeder system,” Hale said. “He would balance that out with other responsibilities. He’s a man of integrity and takes an individual interest in students not only as a basketball coach but as a mentor.”
The Cooksey name is deeply rooted at Fairview. Rex Cooksey, Derek and Brett’s father, has coached just about every sport the Eagles offer. He is currently the school’s athletic director. Derek took over the boys basketball program at age 26. Growing up, he played at both Fairview and Ashland — he graduated a Tomcat. The 37-year-old said his time on Fairview’s sideline has flown by.
“I was blessed to have a very talented team that I came up with,” he said. “(Former assistant) Jerry Davis and my dad thought I was ready to take the reins.”
Cooksey and the Eagles went 23-8 in his first season at the helm. They were 16th Region runners-up to East Carter.
Overall, Fairview compiled a 117-162 record under Cooksey’s direction. It went 3-10 in 64th District Tournament contests, but five of those losses were decided by 10 or fewer points.
“Each year, Derek’s teams always got better as the year went along,” Hale said. “They were always competitive by the end of the year.”
Added Cooksey: "This will always be home to me."
Derek Cooksey said Brett Cooksey and assistant Jake Leibee will provide stability that should make for a smooth transition.
According to Hale, a decision regarding a permanent head coach will be made soon.
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