ORANGE PARK - With quips like “Lombardi” time and “Havoc” basketball, a new era has arrived at Orange Park High School’s boys basketball office with the hiring of Class 2A powerhouse Port St. Joe High’s Derek Kurnitsky who arrived Monday afternoon to take over the reigns of Raider basketball.
As a handful of late-arriving Raider hoops hopefuls arrived in the Orange Park cafeteria, the detail-oriented nature of the Raiders’ newest head boys basketball coach became very apparent. “I guess I will be teaching some potential players here about ‘Lombardi’ time,” said the fast-talking Kurnitsky, referring to former Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi. “If practice starts at 2 p.m., I’m hoping that means arriving at 1:45 p.m. and being ready to hit the court at 2 p.m. full tilt.”
Kurnitsky’s history at Port St. Joe High School (2004-2014), though lacking a state title, is highlighted by a string of regional appearances that include three state semifinal losses and one championship loss; five region championship games; six regions semifinal games and seven district titles.
“I could never beat Arlington Country Day School because they were the powerhouse back then,” said Kurnitsky, who lost in 2007 to Arlington (five-time Class 2A champions) in the 2A state championship. “Funny, but it was not for lack of trying to get there. They beat me three times, all by 29 points.”
Kurnitsky, married to wife Kim with three children; Davida, Kaleb, and MaKenna, was named the Big Bend Coach of the Year in 2006 and, despite losing in the state final, the Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year in 2007 while compiling a record of 179-114 at Port St. Joe and a career record of 190-151 overall.
“We play ‘Havoc’ basketball much like Florida does with constant movement and pressure and plenty of personnel turnover,” said Kurnitsky, originally from Philadelphia and carrying some Northern accent. “I see a lot of athleticism here and am excited to bring some discipline and focus to winning basketball games and getting Orange Park back into the playoffs.”
During his time at Port St. Joe, Kurnitsky coached some excellent student-athletes including two professional athletes (Roman Quinn- second-round pick in the 2011 MLB draft and Calvin Pryor- first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft).
“I encourage my teams to play other sports,” said Kurnitsky. “They are only in high school once and they should try everything.”
He also coached five players who scored over 1,000 points in their career at Port St. Joe. Kurnitsky grew up in West Palm Beach, FL and graduated from Wellington High School. He graduated from Florida State University in 1996.