By STEVE KRAH
Brian Kirchoff swells with pride when he thinks about the coaches in his life.
In his 24th season as an Indiana high school head baseball coach — his 15th at Northeast Dubois after nine at Heritage Hills — Kirchoff knows where his roots lie.
Father Rex Kirchoff was his baseball coach and Steve Brett (on his way to 467 wins) his basketball coach at Bloomfield High School, where Brian graduated in 1984. Brian’s uncle is Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coach Guy Glover.
Another uncle — John Heaton — coached Shelbyville to the boys basketball Final Four in 1986.
Cousin Glen Heaton coached basketballers at Fort Wayne North Side.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Henry Ayres had Brian as an assistant for three seasons before he retired Kirchoff took over for the Patriots.
Before that, Brian played at Indiana State University-Evansville for Larry Shown and then IHSBCA Hall of Famer Brian Kuester and Gary Redman as the school changed its name to the University of Southern Indiana.
“I’m very proud of the coaching tree that I’m a branch of such a coaching tree,” says Kirchoff. “You talk about a guy who’s been lucky. To pick up things from these men is unreal.”
Rex Kirchoff, who is now 81, taught his son the game and is the reason he pursued coaching the sport.
A few years ago, Brian found a way to pay him back.
A family of St. Louis Cardinals fans, the Kirchoffs went to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series (St. Louis bested the Texas Rangers 10-9 in 11 innings on David Freese’s game-winning home run).
“I never saw my dad showing a whole lot of emotion,” says Brian. “He was high-fiving police officers going out of Busch Stadium that night.
“I’ve been very blessed.”
Brian considers himself an “Old School” coach, but he does not always play things by the book.
“I still cringe when people don’t bunt in bunting situations,” says Kirchoff. “When I played for Coach Redman, I found out about being very aggressive on the bases.
“I’m a believer that most kids can move on the bases. You just have to pick ways to do it.”
Not all players a speed merchants. But delayed steals and hit-and-run plays can get the wheels turning.
“You can’t get much done playing station-to-station,” says Kirchoff. “You have to get creative when the kids aren’t quite the fastest.”
Northeast Dubois is an IHSAA Class 1A school of about 270 students. The Jeeps play in the Blue Chip Conference (with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Knox, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet and Wood Memorial; Washington Catholic is also in the BCC but has no baseball team).
How competitive is the Blue Chip? Kirchhoff notes that Rivet did not win the conference and yet finished as 1A state runner-up in 2013.
“You’ve got to play pretty well to win our conference,” says Kirchoff. an IHSBCA district representative. “In some years, three or four teams — with a break or two — could be the team to end up at Victory Field.
“Our conference champion generally speaking has a pretty good chance to make a run every year.”
Northeast Dubois plays seven round robin conference games and then a variety of non-conference opponents.
“I like the opportunity to play as many different people as possible during the season and keep it fresh with the kids. The farthest we go is Shakamak — about 1 1/2-hour drive.
“For a 1A school, we’re in a really nice spot. We have a nice mix of schools and sizes. We have plenty of options.”
3A’s Jasper, Southridge and Washington, 2A’s Forest Park and 1A’s North Daviess all appear on the non-conference slate.
All but two of NED’s nine sectional titles and two of three regional championships have come on Kirchoff’s watch. The Jeeps play in the opener of the five-team Northeast Dubois Sectional Wednesday, May 24. The hosts are the defending champions.
By the way, a Northeast Dubois Jeep has nothing to do with a mode of transportation. It’s an homage to a character that first appeared in the Popeye comic strip in 1936 — Eugene the Jeep.
Brian Kirchoff is in his 15th season as head baseball coach at Northeast Dubois High School. Before leading the Jeeps, he was head coach at Heritage Hills.
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