Heath Kirkham takes over Discovery Canyon girls' hoops

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On the Western Slope, the surname Kirkham is synonymous with championship basketball.

The next generation hopes for just as much success in the Pikes Peak region.

Heath Kirkham, whose father Steve is a member of the Colorado Mesa University Hall of Honor after a 16-year run as women's basketball coach there, recently accepted the position of girls' basketball coach at Discovery Canyon, fresh off the program's most successful season at 16-8.

"It's a great opportunity, and the school has a lot to offer," the younger Kirkham said. "Having K-12 on one campus, it's a big advantage to have kids around our program for many years."

Kirkham isn't the lone addition to the Thunder staff.

A decade ago, Heath Kirkham moved to Colorado Springs to be closer to family; in addition to his father and mother-in-law in Colorado Springs, he had many loved ones in western Kansas as well.

And now that his dad, who retired in 2016 after 12 years as athletic director at Colorado-Colorado Springs and since has relocated to his wife's hometown of St. Francis, Kan., don't look for another move in order to stay close.

"I'm too much of a Colorado guy," said Heath, who graduated from Grand Junction Central in 1999 and five years later earned his bachelor's degree from Colorado Mesa. "I'd like to make this a long-term deal. It was nice to get back over here. You feel a little isolated over there."

Heath, who with his wife Keeley moved to Colorado Springs in 2007, previously served as an assistant boys' basketball coach to Dan Hugill at Coronado.

Soon, he'll start his journey as a head coach for the first time.

"I was an assistant under my father for four years at Mesa, and it's a good shadow to come out from," Heath said. "I took a break from coaching after my son was born, but I'm ready to re-enter, and I'm excited to meet a new team and continue the momentum from last season."

Kirkham replaced Danelle Rivera, who stepped down in late February due to heath issues after nine seasons.

Rivera later was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and recently accepted a teaching position at Eagle Valley High School, her alma mater.

Earlier this week, Mike Jordan was elevated to the position of head cross country coach following the departure of Dave Burgess.

Jordan previously was the program's distance and hurdles coach.

Also, Discovery Canyon has begun its search for a baseball coach after Mike Barbato turned in his resignation after six seasons.