Kennett High School is turning to one of its own in an attempt to revive its struggling boys basketball program.Ken Riale, a 1962 Kennett graduate who has coached numerous sports at the school over the years, was officially named Kennett High's new head varsity basketball coach this month.
Riale takes over a program that has really fallen on hard times since winning the PIAA Class AAA state championship under Rick Nelms in 2001-02.
Kennett has gone just 19-77 overall the last four seasons, and Riale will be the school's third different head coach since Nelms left following the 2002-03 season.
Riale will take over for Stuart Ross. In June, Ross resigned from the position to accept the head coaching job at Penn State Brandywine. In two years under Ross, Kennett went 7-41 overall, including 3-21 last year.
In Riale, the Blue Demons are hoping for stability at the top.
"We had several good candidates apply for the job, and we thought Kenny would be the best fit," said Kennett High School athletic director Jeff Thomas. "Kenny's got a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience. He's a true Blue Demon - went to high school here, knows the school, its traditions and the community. He's going to guide Kennett in the right direction."
Riale comes to Kennett with an abundance of coaching experience.
For the past six years he was the head varsity girls basketball coach at Octorara. He has plenty of coaching ties to his alma matter, though. Riale has been the Kennett varsity boys' tennis coach the past 23 seasons. He also had a two-year stint as the Kennett head varsity girls' basketball coach, and spent approximately 10 years as an assistant boys' basketball coach at Kennett under both Nelms and Dan Augustine.
Riale knows the challenge that lies ahead of him, as he inherits a program that hasn't won more than six games in a season in any of the last four years.
"I have a lot of work to do," said Riale. "When you're 3-21 [Kennett's record last year] you don't get much respect. I'm taking over a program that is in tough shape right now.
"But I'm very excited to get this opportunity and I'm looking forward to the challenge. My goal is to put this program back where it should be, and to make sure that other teams realize that when we go into a gym, they are going to have a battle on their hands."
Riale said that his assistant/junior varsity coach will be Wayne Robinson and that Tom Biedekapp will remain as the ninth grade coach.
"I applied for this job a couple of years ago, but they went in another direction," said Riale. "I'm very excited about getting it this time. I told them I might not be the best looking guy that you interview, but I do know basketball, and I really want to help turn this thing around."