Two crosses. Ken Shields carries them with him wherever he goes. It was the story of these two crosses that stuck with one man who approached him in a local restaurant last week.
“He asked me if I still carried around the two crosses in my pockets,” said Shields.
So Shields took the two crosses out of his pockets and showed the man. A man that was a little kid when he first heard the story of the two crosses at a basketball camp. The story, like so many others Shields has told stuck with that kid and stayed with him into adulthood. Shields’ is full of stories – this is what separates him from most other coaches.
“When you sit and talk to me,” said Shields, “you’re going to get three things. You’re going to get almighty God, you’re going to get family and you’re going to get academics.”
While other coaches would prefer to talk strategy, competition and fundamentals, the first thing Ken Shields will talk to you about will be values. He will get to know you.
This is not to say that all basketball talk is lost, it’s just that it doesn’t take precedence over everything else. Talk to him for just a little while and next time you see him he will most likely remember your name, and you will be sure to remember his stories.
Shields, who has been the men’s basketball head coach at NKU for the past 15 years, announced his retirement last Tuesday. He will leave a program that he has built into one of the most competitive in all of NCAA Division II play. He has done this by being not only a great coach but also a great teacher. He has also done this by developing relationships with not only his players, but with everyone he comes in contact with.
“There is probably no other person in the history of the Greater Cincinnati area, that has talked to as many young people as I have been able to,” said Shields. “It’s really been a blessing to have been able to touch so many lives.”
Shields has used his position as basketball coach to touch lives in many different ways. He runs an annual NKU basketball camp every summer that hosts around 250 to 300 kids per year.
He makes appearances at high school basketball camps around the area during the off-season. He has worked in the past refereeing youth basketball games, as well as serving as Assistant Director of Recreation for the City of Covington, helping to run baseball and basketball clinics for children of all ages.
He uses these opportunities to tell his stories and to impact lives, because that is what great coaches and great people do.
“I hope I’m remembered as a coach that truly cared about my players and my students,” said Shields. “I want to be known for bringing a positive outlook to the university and a positive disposition to the campus.”
It’s time for Coach Shields to take some time off. He plans on spending it with his family, but he will continue to teach here.
There will only be one more year for Shields to coach his team to victory, but there will be many more years left for him to tell his stories and to continue to have a positive impact on whomever he meets.