The National High School Athletic Coaches Association's annual conference began Tuesday in Rochester, Minn., and Kentucky will be looking to bring back some hardware after the awards ceremony Saturday.
Eight high school coaches and one athletic director have been selected as finalists for NHSACA awards: Leslie Bender, girls' golf, Sacred Heart; Fred Hester, Mason County, athletic director; Mark Kachler, girls' cross country, Mason County; Kerry Lancaster, tennis, St. Xavier; Joe Morris, football, Mayfield; Kenny Roberts, boys' assistant coach, Madison Central; Donnie Swiney, girls' assistant coach, Elizabethtown; Cy Tucker, soccer, South Oldham; and James Webb Jr., boys' track and field, North Hardin.
They are each one of eight national finalists up for their respective fields.
Roberts, a Madison Central alumnus and boys' assistant basketball coach at the school since 1983, won't be attending the conference because of summer practices and games but credits the support of head coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. and the school's administration for putting him in a place to be recognized.
"(Allen's) a hell of a basketball coach. And we've together created this monster of a program here," Roberts said. " ... Our administration's always been supportive of our basketball program.
"Part of it is because we've won. If we hadn't won I guess we'd all been fired."
The Indians have reached the state tournament four times since Roberts joined the staff and won their first state title in 2013.
Hester retired before the 2014-15 season after 24 years as Mason County's athletic director. He was an assistant to boys' basketball coach Allen Feldhaus before taking over that role in 1992, leading the Royals to three region titles in five years. He'll be in Rochester exactly two weeks after visiting Belmont, N.Y., to take in American Pharoah's historic win.
"Hopefully Kentucky will have a winner or two. ... It is quite an honor for anybody," Hester said.
Tucker, who founded South Oldham's girls' soccer program in 1990, stepped down as its head coach at the end of last season. He led the Lady Dragons to seven state championships and is Kentucky's winningest girls' soccer coach at 378-119-25. He previously has been nominated for NHSACA Coach of the Year four times according to the school's website.
Elizabethtown reached the state finals in 2014 and state quarterfinals last season with Swiney aiding on the sideline. The Lady Panthers are 64-8 over the past two seasons. Swiney said he was humbled to be named a finalist and will be hosting a seminar during the conference.
"I have no idea who nominated me, though," he said. "I wish I did so I could call 'em and thank 'em."
The NHSACA began giving out Coach of the Year awards in 1978. Fifteen Kentucky coaches and administrators have claimed the honor, the last coming in 2013 when Roscoe Denny took home the award for boys' basketball assistant coach while at North Laurel.