DOWNS — The NFL Network has an award-winning series called “A Football Life.” Todd Kagel has had a basketball life.
Born the son of a basketball coach, he spent much of his childhood in a gym. He developed into a standout player at Normal Community High School and played four years at Illinois State, the final two as a co-captain.
He has coached youth teams, instructed and aided high school players in their skill development. Now, he is adding the
title of head coach.
Kagel has been hired to succeed Jon Nelson at the helm of Tri-Valley High School basketball. Nelson resigned in March after winning 228 games and three McLean County Tournament championships in 14 seasons.
“I think basketball has always been in my blood,” Kagel said. “Now that my son (Drew) is graduating from high school (Normal Community), I still have a desire to be in the gym contributing in some way, shape or form to basketball. The fact I get to work with high school kids is pretty cool. It’s about basketball and the kids for me.”
Kagel’s father, Dennis, was head basketball coach at Fairbury-Cropsey High School during his son’s formative years. Todd Kagel was nearing high school age when his father transitioned out of coaching and the family moved to Bloomington-Normal.
“I did grow up in a gym,” Kagel said. “I grew up in a household where until I was 14, I was the son of a coach and watched what he went through. I learned what it was like to be in a gym 10 months of the year.
“I think I should be able to relate a little bit with what he was going through, not just on the court but off the court stuff. I was at practice with him probably more than half the time.”
Kagel works in the technology field and said, “I’ve found a place and time in my life where I can have some flexible hours and can devote time to some other things.”
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Kagel’s hiring was approved Wednesday night by the Tri-Valley school board. Athletic director Josh Roop likes the depth of Kagel’s basketball experience.
“He’s somebody who has stayed in the game, he’s a student of the game and wants to be involved with high school kids,” Roop said. “He’s excited about the impact he can make here.
“With his dad being a coach, it’s something he said he’s always wanted to do. I really feel like we have a good situation here. I’m very positive and happy with the hire that we’ve made.”
Kagel redshirted a year at ISU under Bob Donewald before playing guard under Bob Bender from 1989-93. The Redbirds won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in 1990 and shared the Valley regular-season title in 1993.
“I would hope that somebody who watched me play would have noticed I didn’t have a lot of talent, but I thought through the game and maybe brought some intelligence to the game,” Kagel said. “That’s probably why (Bender) had me on the floor. It wasn’t height or quickness … it was just knowing what we needed to do.”
ISU played primarily man to man defense and motion offense under Donewald and Bender. Kagel said his coaching style is likely to incorporate those things.
“That’s how I grew up and I would continue to talk to kids about those concepts,” Kagel said.
Kagel said he has the support of his family, which includes his wife, Shana, and daughters Cameron, a student at the University of Illinois, and Kelli, an eighth-grader at Evans Junior High, in addition to his son, Drew, who was a senior guard on NCHS’ Big 12 Conference championship team.
“I think they’re excited because I’m excited,” Kagel said.
Tri-Valley was 13-15 overall and 6-6 in the Heart of Illinois Conference this past season with a roster that included four seniors.