TOPEKA — With basketball season still in full swing, Manhattan High athletic director Mike Marsh likely hasn’t begun seriously talking with any coaches about who will replace Tim Brooks as head coach of the boys’ basketball program.
But when the time comes, it might be worth putting in a call to Ken Darting.
His Scots managed to stay undefeated in Centennial League play by turning away the Indians’ furious rally in the fourth quarter to win 54-44 Friday night, but the longtime coach, winner of four state championships with three other title-game appearances as head coach at Highland Park, is planning to retire at the end of this season.
Whether he’ll continue coaching after that remains up in the air, though he said whatever he does next, he’s looking for a challenge.
“If I want to go back to coaching, I’m looking for somewhere if I coach that’s a challenge,” Darting said. “I’ll be 65 in March, and I need to get up in the morning fired up and ready to attack and get after it. So that’s what I would look at if I take another job, that’s the kind of job that it would be.”
Darting grew up in St. George and coached the Manhattan JV team for one season in 1984-85. When asked specifically about his interest in the Manhattan job opening, he said coaching the Indians was once considered his dream job.
“To answer that — I love Manhattan,” Darting said. “I’ve stated it before, I’ve said it to everybody. I said when I was 22 years old that I would retire as the coach of Manhattan High. That’s how much I looked forward to moving back to Manhattan. Now, I’ve got a brand-new house — I wouldn’t move, but I would drive.”
Darting said as a high-school kid, he wanted to attend MHS but living in Pottawatomie County meant he couldn’t.
“They wouldn’t take out-of-county kids because it was so crowded back then,” Darting said. “So I ended up going to Wamego my junior and senior year, but I played American Legion in Manhattan, I’ve got so many friends and so many people. I’ve always, always just adored Manhattan and always wanted to end in Manhattan.
“The circumstances changed it - and I came (to Highland Park) and found a home and fell in love with it, and stayed for 20 years, and wouldn’t trade a minute of this.”
With two more regular-season games on the schedule and what could be a lengthy playoff run, Darting remains focused on his Highland Park team, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A and a shoe-in to win another Centennial League title outright next week.
“Until the season’s over and that thing is squared up, I’m not talking or thinking about anything,” Darting said about the possibility of taking another job. “When the season’s over, if it sounds right, it feels right, I would give them a call and see what’s up with it. But I’ll go to my grave loving Manhattan.”