Kevin Deitrick already had a taste of high school athletics. Now he believes he is ready for a full-course meal of high school sports.
Deitrick was named last week as the new athletic director at North Hills High School. He walked away from a job in an athletic department at a Division I college to take the North Hills position -- and he couldn't be happier.
"My family says they see a step in my stride again. I'm excited," Deitrick said.
But this isn't Deitrick's first job in high school sports. For the past six years, he was an academic coordinator in the Duquesne University athletic department, working with various sports teams, but primarily the men's and women's basketball teams.
Before he came to Duquesne, though, Deitrick had experience as an assistant athletic director and assistant basketball coach at Upper St. Clair High School. After Upper St. Clair, he also was an assistant principal for a time in the North Allegheny School District.
His experience at high schools made him think he might want to get back to the prep scene. When Dan Cardone resigned as North Hills' athletic director in June, Deitrick, 42, went hard after the job. North Hills had close to 200 applicants for the position.
"I'm just excited to get back to public education and working with kids, coaches and a community," said Deitrick, who lives in Scott Township. "I wanted to get back to working with high schools. The business aspect of college is pretty tough in terms of scholarships and kids leaving.
"It's nice to get back to a community and the bottom line is I just want to be in administration again. Duquesne was wonderful to me, but it's time for a new challenge."
At Duquesne, Deitrick worked closely with men's and women's basketball coaches Ron Everhart and Suzie McConnell-Serio, who have since left for coaching jobs elsewhere. Everhart said Deitrick had great relationships with players in all sports.
In his office at Duquesne, Deitrick put a wallet-sized picture of every student-athlete he worked with and who graduated. He calls it his personal "wall of fame."
"There are some kids who aren't on it and want to know why? I tell them 'because you didn't graduate,'" Deitrick said. "But I started running out of wall space."
Everhart is now an assistant coach at West Virginia University and said of Deitrick: "I can't say enough good about him. He's a great fit for North Hills. He's a tireless worker and the thing about him is he really cares about the kids and is great for the kids."
Deitrick is a graduate of Bishop Canevin High School and attended Washington & Jefferson College, where he played golf. He then earned a master's degree in history and a doctorate in instructional leadership from Duquesne. During his time at Upper St. Clair, he also taught social studies.
But Deitrick is familiar with North Hills athletics.
"I went to high school in the 1980s and North Hills was the pinnacle then," Deitrick said. "They had the national championship football team in 1987 and LaVar Arrington in the 1990s.
"What I'm excited about is wanting to get back to that success and that pride. Dan Cardone was a great athletic director. The big thing I would like to do is be actively involved. I want to make a difference with the kids and the coaches.
"The community factor is a big deal to me, but I also want to take things beyond the high school walls and get pride into the middle schools and youth programs. There is nothing better than Friday nights and seeing little kids wearing North Hills T-shirts. But I want more kids to be involved with everything, from school, athletics, the band and the chorus."
During the past five to 10 years, a number of North Hills sports have gone downhill, struggling to find success. North Hills regularly competes in sections against North Allegheny, Butler and Seneca Valley, three schools that have about twice the enrollment of North Hills. Of the 26 schools playing Class WPIAL Class AAAA football, North Hills ranks 18th in boys enrollment.
"The first year on this job I want to be as supportive as I can be, and kind of take the first year to learn and kind of do my own assessment," Deitrick said. "I will always have an open-door policy with all the coaches and kids and I believe there are four criteria to success -- team cohesion, team culture, player development and role modeling."
Kind of like a four-course meal.