HEISER: Friendly sibling rivalry to continue for York Suburban varsity basketball coaches
- Mitch Kemp is the new varsity boys' basketball coach at York Suburban.
- Kemp is a 2009 Suburban grad. He scored 1,316 points during his Trojans' career.
- As a senior in 2009, he helped Suburban win a District 3 Class 3-A title.
- Suburban is coming off a 21-8 varsity season in 2019-2020.
For the Kemp siblings, basketball is a big deal.
When Mitch Kemp was in middle school, he beat his big sister, Jess, in a game of 1 on 1 for the first time. Jess was playing for York College at the time.
The big sister wasn’t too happy about that loss and made her little brother walk home from the college.
That story has become part of Kemp family lore and is brought up often at family gatherings.
It shows just how much basketball means to the Kemp family.
Now, that love of basketball has produced a situation that may not be unique, but it is certainly unusual.
Mitch and Jess are now both varsity basketball coaches at the same high school where they starred as players. Mitch, now 29, was unanimously approved as the new varsity boys’ head coach at Suburban during a school board meeting on Monday night.
Jess (now Jess Barley), meanwhile, has been the highly successful girls’ head varsity coach at Suburban for nearly a decade, leading the Trojans to an 18-8 mark last season.
The big sister, now 36, has apparently gotten over her defeat to her little brother all those years ago — at least to a degree.
After Kemp's hiring, Barley quickly congratulated her brother on the @YSGBasketball Twitter site.
"Although we’ve been in the same family for 29 years ... it’s exciting to welcome this guy to a NEW family ... the YS head coaching family! And yes ... there will be a sibling competition as to who gets more wins each season," Barley said in a tweet that featured a photo of her and her brother.
That attitude certainly doesn’t surprise her brother.
“Ever since we were little, we always had a rivalry, whether it was horse or 1-on-1, we always had a friendly rivalry, but we always supported each other and that’ll be the same way now at Suburban.” Mitch said. “… She was ecstatic for me and she’s always helped me and guided me when I asked for help. She knew how much it meant to me.”
Similar paths: The siblings followed very similar basketball paths. Both were 1,000-point scorers at Suburban. Both enjoyed solid basketball careers at York College. And now, both are head coaches at Suburban.
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Not surprisingly, the Kemp parents are very proud and supportive of their two children.
“Both know how much the sport and the school mean to both of us. They couldn’t stop texting about how proud and happy they are,” Mitch said.
Culmination of a dream: For Mitch, becoming the Suburban head coach is the culmination of a dream come true.
“It’s been a goal of mine to be the head coach at Suburban,” he said. “I never wanted to be anywhere else. It’s home to me. It’s special to me. I hope to be here a long time.”
The 2009 Suburban grad finished his high school career with 1,316 points and helped the Trojans to their only District 3 boys’ basketball crown in Class 3-A when he was a senior.
Following his graduation from Suburban and York College, Mitch had assistant coaching jobs at West York and Dallastown, before becoming the junior varsity coach at Suburban under Tom Triggs three years ago. He’s enjoyed great success in that role, including a 17-1 campaign in 2019-2020.
AD impressed: After Triggs decided to resign earlier this season, Mitch got his opportunity to land his dream job by beating out an impressive field of candidates, according to Suburban athletic director Matt Marshall.
Marshall is not concerned that his new head boys’ coach is still in his 20s.
"His experiences as a player and coach have prepared him for this role, potentially even more so than someone who may be older in age, but lacks the experience. Mitch is able to relate to our student-athletes, and not being too far removed from his playing career helps in building a rapport, and having a unique insight into the mindset of our student-athletes."
High expectations: Everyone involved in the Suburban basketball program has high expectations for the 2020-2021 season, assuming the COVID-19 pandemic allows a 2020-2021 season. The Suburban boys are coming off a 21-8 season last year, reaching the York-Adams League playoff semifinals and winning a game in the PIAA Class 5-A state tournament.
Next season, the Trojans are set to return rising senior Aidan Hughley, a Y-A Division II first-team all-star; rising sophomore Savon Sutton, who has received several NCAA Division I scholarship offers; rising junior Camden Brewer, a Y-A D-II second-team all-star; and rising senior Alon Gorham.
Plus, there’s the talent from the 17-1 JV team coming up.
“You’re not going to see one superstar,” Mitch said about the Trojans. “We’re going to do it as a group. That includes a tremendous coaching staff.”
Lauding Triggs: Mitch knows he’s been given a great opportunity, largely because of yeoman's work done before him by Triggs, another former Suburban standout who returned to his alma mater and compiled a 255-177 record in 18 total seasons with the Trojans covering two different stints.
“Coach Triggs has not only been a mentor to me, but also a father figure my whole entire life,” Mitch said. “I grew up in the program. … I have tremendous respect for what he’s done for the school, the basketball program and the community.”
Because of Triggs’ work rebuilding the Suburban program during his second stint there, Kemp doesn’t plan any major changes, just some minor tweaks in the hopes of continuing the teams’ recent success.
He’s just hopeful that when the season ends, he can brag about having a few more wins than his big sister.
If he does, this time he won't have to worry about having to walk home.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.