Port St. Joe, FL---Our area is losing one of it's top high school basketball coaches. Derek Kurnitsky is leaving Port St. Joe, and taking the job at Orange Park High School in Jacksonville. That's a leap from 1A ball to the 6A class for coach K.
Coach Kurnitsky guided the St. Joe boy's program for the last ten years, succeeding the great Vernon Epinnette who passed away this week. So no easy shoes to fill, yet he did so winning consistently.
Coach K led the Tiger Sharks five times to the state's elite 8, to four Final-Four berths and and state runner up finish in 2007. He was the Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year in oh-7.
All totaled, his record at St. Joe 179-114, while coaching five players who scored over a thousand points in their prep careers.
Kurnitsky a West Palm native and FSU alum. He tells us it's no easy decision to leave Port St. Joe, a place he, his wife and three kids have come to love dearly.
"It's Agonizing, getting a job is always agonizing. But you know what it's a great time, anytime you interview and go through that experience it's awesome. And it's bittersweet I love Port St. Joe. It's a little bittersweet. I've always wanted to be at a big school. College coaches always want to coach in the NBA, always. Well coaches that coach in a small school always want to coach at a big school. So when I got the opportunity it was good to pass up. I'm so excited to move to Jacksonville, a big city, a big school, so I'm really stoked."
As for the memories, well too many for coach K to mention, but he says when he looks back on his decade in Port St. Joe it will always be with a huge smile on his face.
"If you would have told me ten years ago I'd be to a state championship game, four final fours, I'd be like yeah I'll do it, just awesome. I grew up a lot here in St. Joe. I came here a single guy and now I'm married with kids. St. Joe was really good to me. I love Port St. Joe. And the coaches in the community. Rhondie Ross, he was one of my first phone calls today and Travis Blanton at Marianna. Some of my closest friends. Those are the guys I'll probably miss. Even though now with Twitter and Facebook and cellphones everybody's close."
To say the least it's been an eventful 8 days in Port St. Joe, Calvin Pryor a first round NFL pick, Coach Epp passing away, his funeral is tomorrow. And now coach K departing.