Jodie Karsak

Jodie Karsak’s eighth year as Lady Panther coach will be her last.

The family will be moving to the Kansas City area where her husband has taken a new job. Company restructuring led to work changes locally and it forced the family to explore all options in making a decision for employment in the future.

Her husband, Ben, is beginning a new job soon and Karsak and her daughter, Kacie, will be staying in Derby through the rest of her school year.

Karsak informed her team of the decision on Sunday evening, Oct. 19. It was a meeting full of emotions both for the longtime Derby coach and her players.

“If it were my choice, I’d stay here in a heartbeat,” Karsak said. “This is so much bigger than basketball to me. I told the girls that my heart is broken too … at the end of the day, No. 1, the peace of God matters most to me and I want to do what he wants me to do. No. 2, my family is most important.”

Having known of the impending announcement, Karsak chose to tell her players prior to the season to relish the moments she and the roster will have together instead of throwing it to them in March.

After first arriving in Derby in 2012-13 as an assistant for Caleb Smith, she took over the program one year later. Records and accolades speak for themselves in Lady Panther basketball, playing in five-straight state tournaments and winning the first title in program history in 2018.

It’s also a part of what made the news surprising for those Karsak began to tell and for her to even make the decision in the first place.

“I’ve been shocking a lot of people … life is interesting always,” she said. “I’m so thankful that I don’t have to fear the future because God has it taken care of. It’s going to be really, really hard to leave next summer. Until then, we’re going to make the best of what we’ve got.”

There is not enough clarity surrounding COVID-19 to know what exactly the basketball season may look like. However, Karsak said she will enjoy soaking up every minute she gets with her players, knowing an end is near.

“Coach [Dan] Harrison and I talked about this and something I want to give to these girls is to help them be resilient,” she said. “Things like this build resiliency in us because life is difficult and it would be hard to find a greater gift than to be able to help these players respond to hard things in life.”

The question of what’s next does roam in Karsak’s mind. Having been so deeply involved in the game of basketball, she wants to keep that path going. However, she also admits it would be hard to stay involved in the high school game at a place besides Derby.

“I hope to continue coaching,” she said. “… Maybe years down the road, I’d look at high school, but my heart is here in terms of Derby High School. I just can’t take my heart and go plant it in another high school.”

Karsak said she wants her players to be inspired and motivated for 2020-2021, but wants to help them avoid feeling any pressure.

“This season is going to be special,” she said. “Having to walk together as a family and knowing that this is our last ride together, it’s going to bring us so close together.”