Beechwood promotes Hart to head boys basketball coach

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When the search concluded, the Beechwood Tigers administration decided the best person to take over the boys basketball team was already on the staff.

The administration promoted Ross Hart to the position after he’d been on Erik Goetz’s staff the last five years as the associate head coach and junior varsity head coach. He takes over for Goetz, who retired from coaching in March as the program’s all-time winningest coach after 10 seasons and a total of 160 victories. Hart has coached all 16 seasons in the rugged 35th District.

On top of playing for the program, Hart’s dedication was magnified in 2007 when he spent three months commuting to Lexington to student-teach then driving back to coach at Beechwood until graduating from college that December. Now his drive is up Turkeyfoot Road to Dixie Highway before turning left toward Beechwood. His daytime job is Physical Education in Grades 6-8 at Turkeyfoot Middle School.

“It’s not every day that someone is lucky enough to live out their dream. But for me, my dream has come true to be able to lead the outstanding young people in our basketball program as the head coach,” Hart said. “I love Beechwood. I am so grateful for everything the school has done for me and I am overjoyed to be able to continue giving back to the community and players in our program.”

Beechwood Principal Justin Kaiser led the month-long search and noted Hart’s vision is both ambitious and attainable. Kaiser said Hart wants the program to benefit from a feeder system that goes down to the elementary level and helps the middle school programs attain consistency and an identity.

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“I have watched Ross Hart pour his entire adult life into high school basketball while at Holmes and Beechwood,” Kaiser said. “More importantly, I have watched him invest in the relationships with the players, parents, staff and community that truly embodies The Beechwood Way. We often say, ‘We Are Beechwood.’ Well, Ross is truly Beechwood. As an alum, a former player and a member of the previous staff, there is no one I can imagine that has his passion, enthusiasm and dedication to the Red and White.”

Hart graduated from Beechwood in 2002 after scoring more than 1,000 points. He joined Rick Shumate’s staff for two years in 2007. The 2008-2009 Tigers squad finished 22-6 beating Covington Catholic, 63-56 in the 35th District semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Holmes in the championship game and Boone County in the Ninth Region quarterfinals.

After that season, Hart joined David Henley’s staff at Holmes. He stayed on staff under Jason Booher and Mike Listerman helping the Bulldogs to 35th District Tournament championships in 2010, ’11, ’12 and ’14 and the Ninth Region championship in 2013. That 2013 Bulldogs team lost 65-61 to eventual state champion Madison Central in the state quarterfinals.

“Coach Hart is a home run hire. He is a man of impeccable character and integrity,” Henley said. “Young people respond to him in a positive manner because he understands the importance of relationship building. If there was ever a perfect hire, this is it.”

Hart ultimately returned to his alma mater on Goetz’s staff. The Tigers won the lone All “A” Region championship in program history in 2018 and making the All “A” State quarterfinals.

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“I’m taking something from each of them to Beechwood and looking forward to using,” Hart said. “Long story short, I’m very familiar with how hard the district is. In my opinion, it’s the toughest district in one of the top three toughest regions in the state. We certainly have our work cut out for us. But we can definitely get to where we want to be.”

The 2018-2019 team put together a school record 29-6 campaign that included a 35th District Tournament championship. The Tigers lost to 35th District rival Covington Catholic in the 9th Region championship that year.

“This job is important to him,” Goetz said of Hart. “This job is a destination job for him. This is the job he wants, and quite frankly I don’t know what more anyone could do to earn a shot at it.”

Hart has worked with some standouts during his time at Holmes and Beechwood. Scotty Draud, a 2021 Beechwood alum, left Beechwood as the Ninth Region’s all-time leading scorer. Hart also spent early mornings working with former Holmes standout James “Beetle” Bolden, who went on to play at West Virginia and the University of Alabama.

“There is no better or more deserving person to lead Beechwood than Coach Hart. His work ethic and leadership were a big part of my success,” Bolden said. “He picked me up early before school started to open the gym and do everything in his power to make sure me and my teammates were succeeding on and off the court.”

Beechwood finished 11-20 last year, but the Tigers knocked off Holy Cross led by Coastal Carolina commit Jacob Meyer, 67-64 to make it to the 9th Region Tournament. The Tigers lost to CovCath in the district championship and region champion Newport in the region quarterfinals.

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“That was a big win for us. Whenever you can defeat a player of the caliber of Jacob Meyer, it’s always a feather in your cap for sure. That’s one of those where you want to build toward the postseason,” Hart said. “We’re constantly preaching it’s about the process. For the kids to actually be able to see the process come to light, it’s always a great thing and always great to get the buy-in from the kids.”

Beechwood listed four seniors on last year’s roster, but the returning players do not have to adjust to an unfamiliar coach.

“It goes a long way. Every kid I’ll be coaching has played for me before,” Hart said. “They know my expectations. I know how to coach them, what motivates them and get the most out of each one of them.”

Hart said Beechwood has a number of high IQ basketball players, so the plan is to use that to mix things up on both ends.

“I think our best offense is our defense,” Hart said. “We’re going to try to get stops and score off turnovers or long rebounds. Get the ball and go. I think modern basketball is you’re trying to get to the basket or shoot threes. At least that’s what the analytics say. I have a good shooting team returning. I think we’ll depend a lot on the three-point shot. With that being said, we won’t be afraid to bang down low. But I think our team will be built around getting stops on the defensive end.”

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