If you’re a basketball fan and have been in Northeast Kansas for a while, then you probably know about Highland Park head basketball coach Ken Darting.
Whether you’re a Scots fan, or someone Highland Park has played, and probably beaten, you would recognize ‘Coach D’. He’s been a leader in the Highland Park community for more than a decade.
“For the most part, people would say I’m un-emotional,” said Darting. “But here at Highland Park, I’ve always been emotional. I cry with them, I fight with them, I fight for them.
Though winning isn’t everything, Darting has made it second nature at Highland Park, leading the Scots to four state championships.
“He was a four-sport, an all-state performer,” said Dale Cushinberry, former Highland Park principal. “He’s one of those guys that will figure out a way to win. He’s a winner.”
“When you get recognized by your people, your community. your school, it’s really special,” said Darting.
It doesn’t stop there. In his 19th and final season as a head coach, there’s more to life than just basketball.
“If you only know coach Darting as coach, then you really don’t know him,” said Cushinberry. “The things that stand out most to me aren’t the state championships, it’s how he’s changed lives.”
“I tell them that basketball is a mini life,” says Darting. “So we’re going to teach you life’s lessons. It might be, this is going to win or lose a basketball game, but in the future, it’s going to get you a job, or get you fired.”
After all the state championships and nearly 500 career wins, Darting says he works his hardest after the Scots are defeated on the court.
The current Scots players have learned many lessons for their legendary coach.
“He’s taught me how to be a great person and grow up to be a man and take care of your family,” said Jahmal McMurrary, a current Highland Park guard. “That’s the kind of thing he preaches here at Highland Park. It’s not just basketball, but stuff in the school, and stuff outside of basketball for when you get older.”
Coach Darting describes himself as ‘tenacious’.
“I don’t believe anything can’t be done,” said Darting. “I absolutely believe that nothing can’t be done. You can do anything.”
Earlier this season, the Scots honored Darting by naming not only the floor, Coach D Court, but also naming the entire gym after their tenacious coach.
“Some day I’m going to have a gym named after me,” said Darting. “That just doesn’t happen. You don’t think that way.”