A year after resigning as head coach of the Jamestown High School girls’ basketball team, Ken Ricker is back on the court within the school district.
Ricker, who stepped down after allegedly pushing one of his players during a game, has been hired at Persell Middle School as head coach of the boys’ basketball program. The Jamestown School Board signed off on the hire over the summer.
“I never really wanted to get out of coaching,” Ricker told The Post-Journal. “After everything that happened, I had to take a step back and look at myself.
“There were a couple of opportunities elsewhere, and a bunch of them offered me a job. But each time I thought about it, I just couldn’t go to another school district. I live for the Jamestown School District.”
Ricker, who serves as Jamestown High School’s supervisor of in-school suspension, said the decision to resign was his own. In the weeks following the Jan. 26, 2012, altercation, Ricker said he was able to “clear the air” with the player – Rosa Velazquez – and her mother.
The incident occurred midway through the second quarter of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 game against Clarence. Velazquez had received a technical foul by an official when Ricker allegedly pushed her aside to avoid further confrontation. Ricker did not return to finish the game, and was suspended indefinitely by the school district a day later.
“I regret every part of it,” Ricker said. “It just went poorly. When I interviewed (at Persell), we talked about it and had a serious discussion about it. I knew they would be giving me a second chance.”
He added: “It certainly wasn’t who I was, and I told them it wouldn’t happen again. They let me know it was a big deal to give me another shot.”
The school district a year ago said in a statement it “strongly emphasizes it neither condones nor does it approve of his actions.” However, just seven months after accepting Ricker’s letter of resignation, the district hired him as coach at Persell.
Daniel Kathman, Jamestown Public School’s superintendent, said he relayed athletic director Ben Drake’s recommendation of Ricker to the school board, which in turn approved the hire.
“I can only observe (Ricker) has made quite the personal transformation in the way he coaches and the way he looks at the world,” Kathman said.
Ricker said if asked he would consider coaching at the high school level again. However, he conceded he needs to prove himself to the school district, although support from parents has been steadfast throughout.
“I think everyone knows how much I care about the kids, and people are continuing to support me,” he said. “I don’t want this to be my defining moment. Hopefully (coming back) will be seen as my redemption and I will be able to put this behind me.”
Ricker had compiled a 141-31 record before stepping down, including three Section 6 championships and ECIC Division 1 titles. He currently has a 4-1 record with his eighth-grade team and a 2-2 record with the seventh-grade team.