There will be two new head varsity basketball coaches at Miami Trace High School when the 2021-22 season gets underway seven months from now.
On Monday, April 12, the Miami Trace Local School District Board of Education voted 4-0 to hire Ben Ackley as the new boys varsity head coach. Board member Mike Henry was not in attendance at the meeting.
Board members Charlie Andrews, Bruce Kirkpatrick, Rob Dawson and David Miller, along with Superintendent Kim Pittser all congratulated Ackley and wished him the best of luck.
Rob Pittser coached the Panthers twice; the first time for four years and then he returned to coach the varsity team for the past seven seasons.
“First of all, I want to thank Coach Pittser for his years of service to the basketball program,” Miami Trace Athletic Director Aaron Hammond said. “I had the opportunity to coach with Rob for four years. Then, in his current stint in a different role as the A.D. working with him as the head basketball coach.
“Rob put a lot of time and effort into the program,” Hammond said. “We wish Rob nothing but success with whatever he chooses to do in the future. I’m glad I will get to continue to see Rob on a daily basis at the school as he will continue as a teacher in our district.
“When Coach Pittser notified me of his intent to resign his position as the boys’ basketball coach, the district put together a search committee to evaluate candidates,” Hammond said. “The position was posted internally, as is required according to our contract. We had a number of applicants internally for the position. The search committee interviewed those applicants and at the end of that process, the committee felt very comfortable making the recommendation for Ben Ackley to be our head basketball coach.
“Ben has put in a number of years with great success as the head girls’ basketball coach of our district,” Hammond said. “There is no one who will out-work Ben. Ben is probably one of the most prepared coaches and does an outstanding job of preparing his team for success on the court and we look for those qualities to carry over with him as he takes over the reins of our boys’ basketball program.”
The hire of Ackley will necessitate another coaching search for a girls varsity basketball head coach.
“The process for seeking new leadership in our girls’ basketball program (began Tuesday),” Hammond said. “We will post the position internally, as we did with the boys’ position, and then we’ll take it from there. As a committee, we will evaluate candidates and we will find someone we are comfortable with leading our girls’ program.
“The girls’ program has had considerable success over the past decade and even beyond that,” Hammond said. “We hope to continue that success and hope not to skip a beat in terms of that aspect. We are actively in the process of seeking out a new head girls’ basketball coach.”
Ackley has been the head coach of the Lady Panthers’ basketball program for the past nine seasons. During that time, he has led the Lady Panthers to a record of 158-52. There were seven SCOL/FAC championships during Ackley’s nine seasons at Miami Trace. The Lady Panthers won seven Sectional titles, one District championship, one Regional title and a trip to the State Final Four in March of 2017.
Prior to that, Ackley was the girls’ varsity basketball coach at London High School for two seasons.
“This was absolutely the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, when it comes to sports and athletics, anything that wasn’t directly related to my family,” Ackley said. “This was more about just a new challenge.
“I am very thankful to the school board and all the administration at Miami Trace,” Ackley said. “They have been extremely supportive of myself and the girls’ basketball program for the last nine years. The fact that they are willing to give me the chance to be the next boys’ coach and lead this program, their confidence in me is very humbling. We’re going to work very hard to make them and the district proud.”
As for the next chapter in his coaching career, Ackley said, “I look forward to the challenge of motivating and building a solid program from the third grade through grade 12; bringing a staff together of the youth coaches, the junior high coaches and the high school coaches. We want it to be like one big family that supports one another. We’re going to challenge these kids to work harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives. I look forward to getting started as soon as possible to get things moving.
“When it comes to coach Pittser and his staff, I have nothing but respect,” Ackley said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with coach Pittser for the last seven years. He’s been phenomenal to work with and to be around. He’s helped me a lot. He has a great offensive mind when it comes to the game. He’s been extremely supportive through the change and he’ll continue to help me. He’s been great. I appreciated all that he and his staff have done.
“I think I’m leaving the girls’ program better than we found it,” Ackley said. “Just as far as we have a great youth program; a great staff of coaches. I’ve been very fortunate to coach with the best coaches around.
“We’ve had some just unbelievable players,” Ackley said. “They’re even better people; great parents. It’s a pretty emotional time for me, with leaving something that I’ve basically put my heart and soul into for nine years. From the first day we took that job until today I’ve been a girls’ basketball coach. I knew last night was the last night I’d go to sleep as the girls’ basketball coach.
“There are a lot of great memories,” Ackley said. “We were fortunate enough to win a lot of games and a lot of championships. We went to the Final Four and we’ve had, I believe, 11 kids who have gone on to play college basketball. We have four or five who will be playing college basketball next year.
“There are a lot of things to be proud of,” Ackley said. “The memories made, all the people, from our youth coaches to our junior high coaches to our support staff. Karl Kellenberger has been with the program for 23 years as a bookkeeper. There are just so many things — I could go on and on all night about how special my nine years were as far as being the head coach. It was just an honor to be able to lead the program. There will be memories I’ll always cherish.”
The Record-Herald reached out to Rob Pittser for his thoughts about the change.
“It has been a blessing for Kim and I to have had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of young people through the game of basketball,” Pittser said. “Thanks to the Miami Trace school board and community for the years of support and special thanks to our administrative team here at Miami Trace. We have been very fortunate to work under two outstanding athletic directors in our time here.
“Aaron Hammond and I served together as coaches on the same staff prior to him transitioning to the position of athletic director and Charlie Andrews still serves as a mentor for me to this day,” Pittser said. “We would also like to thank all of the coaches and support staff that have worked alongside us on this journey. It takes many individuals to staff a successful program and we have been blessed with so many wonderful people that have sacrificed so much to contribute to the cause.
“While winning games will always be an important factor, it is the lifelong lessons, taught and learned, that make coaching so special,” Pittser said. “Observing our former players develop into productive citizens in our community, with families of their own, far outweighs what has ever been displayed on a scoreboard on a given Friday night. The relationships developed and the experiences we have shared are things we will cherish for a lifetime. It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve as the head boys basketball coach at Miami Trace. Go Panthers!”