CEDAR RAPIDS — For years, Tony Vis has kept an eye on the girls’ basketball scene in Cedar Rapids.
“I’ve paid attention to that area for a long time,” he said. ”There’s a lot of tradition there … from Stacy Frese and Anne O’Neil and all of those other great players.”
Vis, who has spent the last seven years at Harlan, has been hired as the varsity coach at Kennedy High School, pending board approval.
“Kennedy has a great tradition, and (former coach) Dennis Roloff did a great job there,” Vis said. “They’ve got a lot of good, young kids returning.”
Three of the returners — Paige Hendrickson, Stephanie Botkin and Jordan Holmes — gave Vis and his family a tour of the school Saturday.
Vis’ oldest daughter, Brianna, is finishing up her junior year at Harlan. She was the Cyclones’ starting point guard last season. The middle daughter, Mariah, was a varsity reserve and is a sophomore. Tony and his wife, Rita, also have a fifth-grader, Ashley.
“The girls had veto power on this decision,” Vis said. “But they gave (the move) their blessing.”
That made an impression on Kennedy Athletics Director Aaron Stecker.
“I really admire the way Tony and Rita went about this process,” Stecker said. “He saw this as a personal professional opportunity, but it was a decision made by the whole family.”
Vis, 41, is a native of LeGrand and a 1994 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa. He owns a career record of 259-113, including 121-46 at Harlan.
According to Harlan Athletics Director Mitch Osborn, “Nobody outworks Tony Vis.”
“If he’s got an off night and there’s someone to watch, he’ll be out scouting,” Osborn said. “He’s an outstanding coach. He knows his stuff. He’s a worker.
“He has taken the program here and elevated it.”
Now Vis will try to do the same at Kennedy. The hire came two months after Kennedy announced that it would not retain Roloff, who posted a 314-165 record in 21 years, taking the Cougars to state five times.
“We knew we wanted the next hire to be somebody with experience and a proven track record,” Stecker said. “We wanted somebody that would give the kids a year-round opportunity to improve and do so with a multi-sport philosophy in mind.
“Tony is that person for us.”
Vis had previous coaching stops at Walnut Ridge Baptist, Hudson and Audubon, before taking the Harlan job in 2005. He also serves as the Harlan girls’ soccer coach.
“We’re getting whammied twice,” Osborn said. “We’ll miss him a lot. But this is an opportunity for him to move up the professional ladder. Kennedy is probably one of the top five or six (girls’ basketball) jobs in the state.”
Vis coached Hudson to the Class 2A state semifinals in 2003 and Harlan to the 3A semis in 2006. Harlan was a 3A state qualifier in 2009.
At Kennedy, Vis will inherit a team that went 13-10 last season and returns four of its top six scorers. Hendrickson (7.2 points per game), Madi Meier (6.3) and Holmes (4.0) will be juniors; Botkin (7.3 ppg) will be a sophomore.
The Cougars lose all-stater Courtney Strait, the leading scorer in Class 4A at 20.7 points per game, to graduation.
Vis will teach social studies at Kennedy.