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Posted May 21, 2013
HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM: McKowen has high hopes for Cougars

Jon McKowen, Kennedy coach

Editor’s note: Here is your chance to tell your story about your team, your school or your favorite player. If you’d like to join The Gazette’s growing list of high school contributors, contact J.R. Ogden at jr.ogden@thegazette.com

By Ethan Divis, Kennedy junior

CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s been 16 years since there has been a new boys’ basketball coach at Kennedy High School.

After Bob Fontana left for his hometown Ankeny, Kennedy began  looking for a new head coach.

They found their man in Jon McKowen.

“I was very excited (when I got the job),” McKowen said. “I know there was a long list of great candidates that applied.

“I chose to drive up five hours and interview because it was a job that I definitely wanted.”

Kennedy athletics director Aaron Stecker liked McKowen’s 11 years of head coaching experience.

“He’s been very successful where he’s been,” Stecker said.  ”He had a successful record at NU high here in Iowa and at Ottawa high school in Kansas.”

McKowen was interested in Kennedy not only for coaching, but for academics as well.

McKowen poses at Kennedy H.S. (Mary Mathis photo/Kennedy junior)

“Kennedy sets itself apart academically from most schools in the state and that’s the number one focus as a educator, you want to be in a good school system that really values the education” McKowen said. “Everybody just had great things to say about Kennedy High School and what a great place it is.”

McKowen, who is 33 years old, coached last season at Ottawa High School in Kansas, where he went 25-0 and won the Class 4A state championship.

“It was very difficult to leave,” Mckowen said.

McKowen took Ottawa to the state tournament every year he coached there.

“The community and the kids that I’ve coach are not happy that we’re leaving but they understand that it’s time to get our kids closer to family,” he said. “You become very close to a community and kids when you put in this much time.”

McKowen succeeds Fontana, who just won his 300th game as a head coach this season.

“He left the program in a great position,” McKowen said. “A lot of times when you get to take over as a head basketball coach it’s because the program’s a mess. It’s set up for the next head coach not to do a rebuilding process, but just continue it.”

McKowen grew up in Iowa, attending Waspie Valley High School where he was a three sports athlete. After he graduated from Upper Iowa, he took a head coaching job at NU High in Cedar Falls and quickly turned around their program.

“The program at NU High wasn’t really a successful program before he got there,” Stecker said. “For him to go 92-26 and take them to the state tournament is really impressive.”

McKowen’s carrer record is 220-56 in his 11 years of coaching.

McKowen wants Kennedy basketball to be well represented throughout the community.

“Every year we represent Kennedy High School in the highest regard,” he said. “Every time we step on the floor we want to make sure that the community, the parents and everybody surrounding it is proud of what’s on the floor.”


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