High School Basketball

Osborne says Kentucky Wesleyan job too enticing to pass up

Happy Osborne is in his first year as Montgomery County's coach.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Happy Osborne is in his first year as Montgomery County's coach. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

In his basketball heart of hearts, Happy Osborne is a college guy, which explains why he is leaving Montgomery County High School after just one season to return to the college level as coach at Kentucky Wesleyan.

Osborne was introduced as the Panthers' new coach at a news conference in Owensboro on Monday. He replaces Todd Lee, who left the Panthers to become associate head coach at Grand Canyon State in Phoenix. Lee had a 154-81 record in eight seasons at Kentucky Wesleyan.

Osborne said he wasn't "applying for every job going," but Kentucky Wesleyan had special allure.

"It's Kentucky Wesleyan. Eight (NCAA Division II) national titles. A tremendous fan base that we hope to ignite and amplify. The Sportscenter is a historic place ...

"To me, Kentucky Wesleyan has the whole package."

Osborne said former Panthers coaches Guy Strong, Bob Daniels, Mike Pollio, Wayne Chapman and Ray Harper went to bat for him in his pursuit of the job.

"To have a chance to coach where they coached is an unbelievable opportunity," Osborne said.

Osborne is a proven winner. In 15 years as head coach at Georgetown College, he won 456 games, including an NAIA national title in 1998.

He left Georgetown after the 2011 season to become an assistant at Tennessee Tech. That stint lasted only one year because Osborne and his wife wanted to get back to Kentucky.

He landed at Montgomery County, where he led the Indians to the Sweet Sixteen semifinals and a 33-5 record.

Montgomery County assistant superintendent Phil Rison said he knew Osborne might not stay in Mount Sterling for an extended time.

"Happy's body of work is mostly on the college level, and those strings continued to pull at him," Rison said.

"But we decided one year of Happy was better than not having him at all. Our basketball program is much better because of his one year of service with us.

"Kentucky Wesleyan is getting a phenomenal coach."

Osborne said he cherished his year at Montgomery County.

"I don't think there's a better high school job in the state," he said. "From day one the people in that town treated me like I'd lived there my whole life.

"Mount Sterling will always be dear to my heart, and Montgomery County will always be my favorite high school team. It was a privilege to coach those kids."

Osborne hit the ground running in Owensboro. He arrived in town Sunday afternoon and was on the phone in his office at Kentucky Wesleyan on Sunday night doing basketball business.