Coaching legend Ed Kershner, whose 1982-83 Osceola High School basketball team won a state championship, has died at age 81 at his home in Oviedo.

A former All-State player in Indiana, Kershner played collegiately at Florida Southern. He started his coaching career in his native state but moved back to Florida in 1980 to accept the job at Osceola High. He coached the Kowboys for 11 years from 1980 to 1991, where he started to gain a reputation as one of the top high school basketball coaches in the nation.

His state championship team is still remembered today.

“That team was called the Speed Express and it was so much fun to watch,” current Osceola Football Head Coach and a former Osceola High student Eric Pinellas recalls. “Coach Kershner was one of the greatest minds in all of basketball and was an even better person. In my mind I can still hear his booming voice echoing in the Kowboys gym.”

That state championship team featured Frank Ford, Jimmy McCrimmon, and Markus Paul. Ford, who would become a four-year starter at Auburn and go on to play professional basketball, and McCrimmon both averaged more than 25 points per game on a team that would go 37-0.

In 11 seasons at Osceola, Kershner reached the regional or sectional finals five times and advanced to two Final Fours. It was during that time that he established himself as one of the leading voices of high school basketball in the state of Florida. He founded the Florida High School Basketball Coaches Association and served on numerous committees at the state and national levels.

He would move on to Oviedo High after the 1990-91 season, where he would coach the Lions until his retirement in 2017. Kershner would collect his second state championship in 2014 and would finish his 45-year coaching career with a 901-377 record – the highest school coaching wins in Florida history.

But winning games and championships was but a small part of the Kershner legacy. He mentored thousands of young players and coaches in his career and was always willing to share his knowledge and experience with them.

“There’s no way I would be coaching today without him,” Osceola High graduate and current Kowboys basketball coach Steve Mason said. “I wasn’t a good enough player in high school to play for him but when I went to college, I decided I wanted to be a basketball coach. I called Coach K and he invited me to attend as many practices and games as I wanted. He would then spend hours will me, talking about coaching, basketball strategy and dealing with athletes. He was so giving.”

Mason, who is in his second stint as Osceola head coach, said when he returned as head coach in April, Kershner was one of the first to call him. “We spent an hour talking about Osceola High School and its basketball tradition,” Mason said. “He reminded me I was now the keeper of that tradition and what a responsibility it was.”

Nate Alexander, who coached 13 years at Osceola – including seven as head coach – said Kershner was an incredible influence on him and was driving force to his success that included three Final Four Appearances and two more state championships.

“I was a glorified ball boy when I started at Osceola and my boss, Larry Brown was close friends with Coach Kershner, so those two were always hanging out at tournaments, camps, and clinics,” Alexander said. “I always made it a point to stand right next to him, because I wanted to hear every word that he had to say about basketball. I learned a lot from osmosis.”

Alexander said his connections with Kershner continued throughout his career. Anytime I had a problem, question or situation, I would call Coach K and he would always answer and spend whatever time I needed. He was truly one of the most giving individuals that I have ever met in my life.”

Alexander added the greatest lesson he learned from Kershner was simply love. “He could be tough, but his players always knew he loved them and cared deeply about them and because of that they would run through a wall for him,” Alexander said. “He developed strong relationships with his players that would last long after they graduated.”

Although Kershner spent well more than half of his career at Oviedo, Mason said he was a Kowboy at heart. “He loved Osceola High and always made it a point to keep up with the team,” Mason said. “I think the school always had a special place in his heart.”

Photo Source: Orlando Sentinel