Jerry Kirksey, whose college basketball coaching career included stops at Drury and Southwest Baptist, has died after suffering a stroke due to COVID-19.
Kirksey spent eight years as an assistant basketball coach — seven at Missouri-Rolla and one at Drury — before becoming head coach at Drury when Edsel Matthews left to become athletics director for Springfield Public Schools.
With Kirksey on staff, the Panthers went 29-4 in 1977-78 and reached the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City. Moving over to head coach the next season, Kirksey directed Drury to a 33-2 record and a 60-54 victory over Henderson State in the 1979 NAIA championship game.
Ironically, Kirksey left Drury and became head coach at Henderson State from 1980-83. He guided the Reddies to two NAIA appearances and a quarterfinal berth in 1982.
He was head coach at Southwest Baptist from 1987-96, compiling a 146-79 record. Five of his nine Bearcat teams were nationally ranked, and his 1991 squad won the MIAA title with a 15-1 record and advanced to the Elite Eight, losing in the quarterfinals.
Kirksey compiled a 246-124 record in 13 years as a head coach. He began coaching at the high school level and was 146-52 in eight seasons, highlighted by three sectional appearances in five years at Houston (Mo.) High School. He was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018.
Kirksey began his prep career at Halfway High School and transferred to Buffalo where he was a two-time all-state selection.
He spent one year at the University of Missouri before transferring to Southwest Missouri State where he played for coach Eddie Matthews from 1958-61. He played on the Bears’ 1958-59 team that finished 23-3 and lost to host Evansville in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Kirksey, however, couldn’t play in the postseason because of transfer rules.
He was the Bears’ No. 2 scorer in 1959-60 at 14.9 points per game, and he led the Bears in scoring as a senior with a 17.7 average. He was inducted into the Missouri State Hall of Fame in 1999.