After leading one of the most successful football programs in the area for more than a decade, Nick Koenigsknecht has decided to step down as the head football coach at Pennfield.
“I have been debating it for a couple of years, but it just seems like now is the time to do it,” Koenigsknecht said. “It’s been so good being the coach at Pennfield, but time commitments and the stress that comes with coaching has made it tough to continue.”
Koenigsknecht, also known as ”Coach K”, has been a teacher for 30-plus years and has the option of retiring from Pennfield all together, which he’s undecided on. He has one daughter graduating from Pennfield this spring and another graduating from graduate school, so he is looking at a crossroads in his family situation, which also went into his football decision.
“With my family situation the way it is now, it is time to get on to other things. It’s a good time to walk away and to hang it up,” Koenigsknecht said.
Koenigsknecht won his 100th game as a head coach at Pennfield in 2010 in just over a decade on the job, after taking over the post in 1999. At the end of last season, Koenigsknecht had a remarkable record of 130-34.
“It’s really difficult to make this kind of decision. Last year, I was really close to hanging it up, but I was really glad I didn’t because we had a great year,” Koenigsknecht said.
In its final season in the league, Pennfield won the Kalamazoo Valley Association last season and went 10-2 overall, falling in the third round of the playoffs. Since taking over, Koenigsknecht had six seasons with double-digit victory totals and four undefeated regular seasons, to go along with nine KVA championships, four district titles, while making the playoffs every year as a head coach.
The news of Koenigsknecht stepping down become official this week as the Pennfield Board of Education accepted his letter of resignation. The longtime Panther coach had told his athletic director that he had been thinking about such a move since the end of the season, but only recently made it a reality.
“After the season he mentioned he was not sure he was going to return and I told him to take as long as he needed to figure out what he wanted to do, he had earned that,” said first-year Pennfield Athletic Director Bret Steele. “It was a pleasure to get to know him and work with him this year. He’s had tremendous success and he is leaving very large shoes to fill.”
And leaving a lot of former Panther coaches and players.
“The No. 1 thing I will miss is the relationships with the kids and the No. 2 thing is the relationship with the other coaches,” Koenigsknecht said. “We had a great run here, a lot of success, and it was really special to spend all those years with those kids and those coaches — especially on Friday nights.”
Steele has already started the process of finding the coach that will be asked to continue Pennfield’s winning tradition. Early in his search, he says he is open to candidates inside and outside the school system.
“One of the things I have always believed in is to open all coaching vacancies internally and externally. We already have several good candidates internally and externally,” Steele said. “In the end, we want to get the best candidate. If that’s someone internally, great. If that’s someone from the outside, we will do that. We owe it to the program and our kids to get the right person.”
One key to the coaching search, according to Steele, is the ability for Pennfield schools to have a teaching job open for an incoming coach.
He added that the school board doesn’t usually decide on such things until May of each year.
“If we can tie the job to a teaching position, that would make a difference as to who we could attract,” Steele said. “The success of the program speaks volumes about the interest we have already had. People around the state realize what kind of job this is.”