Last August, the South Suburban Conference honored Richards’ Jeff Kortz at a banquet for being named the conference’s girls basketball Coach of the Year.
There was just one problem: Kortz didn’t show.
The longtime Richards coach is not one for attention or self-congratulation. Therefore, Richards Athletic Director Ken Styler stood in Kortz's place at the banquet.
Kortz may be unusually humble, but considering his accomplishments, he has no reason to be.
Richards’ Most Valuable Coach
Winning has come in bunches for Kortz over the last two years. He is Richards’ head varsity girls basketball coach and is an assistant coach for the varsity football and baseball teams. With Kortz patrolling the sidelines, these three teams have combined to win six straight conference championships.
“All of the wins have a lot to do with the kids,” Kortz says. “The kids have to go out there and produce when the lights are on, and our kids have done a great job over the years. And it also helps having good coaches around you.”
Richards baseball head coach Brian Wujcik says Kortz is Richards’ “MVC”—Most Valuable Coach.
Kortz was a baseball player at Richards before he headed down south to play baseball for the University of Mississippi and longtime major leaguer Don Kessinger—a former Cubs shortstop—who coached at Ole Miss. After graduating from Ole Miss in 1992, Kortz came back to Richards to coach.
He started coaching baseball in 1994. In 2001, he became the girls basketball head coach and started coaching football as well. He also has helped out with the boys basketball program.
While Kortz may be averse to receiving attention for his success, he’s not shy when it comes to asking a lot from his players. He describes his coaching style as “old school.”
“I want you on time, I want you to play hard, and I want you to do what you’re supposed to do,” Kortz said, adding that he holds his players to their word.
Richards seniors Brianna LeBeau and Hannah Jenkins, who have played for Kortz for three years on the girls basketball team, acknowledge that Kortz demands hard work from his players.
“He’s really intense sometimes,” LeBeau says. “He doesn’t like to lose, and he just wants us to play our best game and be serious.”
“I think he’s passionate about the game,” Jenkins adds. “And he wants us to be passionate about the game too, and he wants us to go out there and play how we know we can.”
Kortz says that while he does have an old-school approach, he makes it a point to never embarrass anybody. Recent Richards baseball shortstop Joe Lyons describes Korz’s demeanor as calm, but with one catch.
“He’s really calm, but he’s really sarcastic,” Lyons says. “When he’s sarcastic, that’s when you know you should just shut up because you’re wrong. I learned that.”
Another way Kortz has been successful is by always being accessible to his players. According to Lyons, if any athlete wants to work on any aspect of his or her game, Kortz will be there to help.
“If you want to work on something, he’ll come out here and work with you for one hour or two hours, every day if you wanted to,” Lyons says.
When asked about his successes over the last two seasons, Kortz deflects the praise to others.
“The kids are hard-working kids,” he says. “They come from families that are hard-working.”
He also praises the coaches who have influenced him over the years.
“Playing for so many years, coaching with so many guys, you get so many different perspectives,” Kortz says.
He heaps plenty of praises on his colleagues at Richards.
“The coaches I’m with, they’re great people,” Kortz says. “I could call—I would say every coach that I’m associated with—I could call them at any part of the day and say, ‘Look, I’m in trouble, I need this.’ I’m pretty sure they’re going to be right there next to me, just like I would be for them.”
But no matter how much Kortz likes to pass credit to others, plenty of it always finds its way back to him.
“He’s very committed, and he’s very student-oriented,” Styler says. “We’re just glad he’s with us, and we hope he continues coaching for a long time.”