Jimmy McKinney: Dedication


Ella Davies

Jimmy McKinney, KHS boys’ basketball head coach, coaches his team in practice prior to their first game against Mehlville.

Intense. Passionate. Dedicated. These were the three words junior guard Kellen Rhimes used to describe his head coach, Jimmy McKinney.

For McKinney, boys basketball head coach, his passion for basketball started in middle school, behind his true first love: baseball. Although starting at a time generally considered too late in the basketball world, McKinney made the most of it and picked up on the sport quickly. Practice became natural, and so did the game of basketball.

“My dad put the ball in my hands,” McKinney said of his father, Jimmy McKinney Sr. “Basketball was something I picked up just playing around the neighborhoods.”

From those North St. Louis parks, McKinney spent his next four years at Vashon High School in St. Louis developing as a basketball player. The nationally-known Vashon basketball program was where McKinney thrived as a 6 foot 4 inch leading scorer and won three Missouri state championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The memories and experiences are something that prepared McKinney for the future and something he said he would never give up.

I would give an arm and a leg to get those four years at Vashon back again.

— Jimmy McKinney

“I would give an arm and a leg to get those four years at Vashon back again,” McKinney said. “The experience was one of the best experiences of my life. It was greater than college and greater than professional because of the group, and the relationships I built are the same ones I have today.”

After getting the attention of many colleges at Vashon, McKinney knew he wanted to play at the next level and he had to make a choice. Ultimately, he decided to stay close to home and his parents, receiving a full scholarship to play for the University of Missouri. In his four years there, he started 115 of 123 games played, scoring over 1,100 points, securing 422 rebounds and averaging 30.6 minutes per game. 

“My mom is very supportive, my dad is very supportive and to this day they are very supportive. I wanted to stay somewhere close where they could watch me play and could come drive and reach me when they needed to, ” McKinney said. “When you go into a gym and see nothing but tents and kids who slept overnight when it is below zero in the snow just to watch you play, there is no greater experience than that.”

With his years in college running out, McKinney was not ready to put the ball down just yet. He decided to continue his basketball career in Germany. For the next 10 years, McKinney would be thousands of miles away from his family. Only being able to come home and see his son for three months of the year, he spent his time at home as a parent watching his son play from the sidelines.

I saw how much time I wasn’t spending with my son, and it really hit me.

— Jimmy McKinney

“I saw how much time I wasn’t spending with my son, and it really hit me,” McKinney said. “I started coaching him out of the blue one day. I wanted to be a parent, and I wanted to watch. But, being the person I am, I wasn’t worried about my son. I was looking at the other kids and saw they needed help, too.”

This is where McKinney’s love for coaching began: his son’s first grade Larry Hughes Little League basketball team. For the next three years, each summer he would come home and coach the team. Eventually in 2017, he went back to Vashon to help train the high schoolers. After playing 262 games in Germany and leading up his eleventh year overseas to play for a new team in Greece, McKinney decided he was ready to hang his jersey up and view basketball from the other side of the line.

“I never knew that I was going to be a coach, or even fall in love with coaching,” McKinney said. “Where I’m from, you’re always looking for a way out, and if I didn’t have basketball I don’t know what I would be doing right now. Basketball is like a tree, and now I have branches coming off of that tree. I am looking through the lens as a coach now. You can’t play so you have to teach them to play through your eyes. It’s the hardest thing to do. You see it, you want them to see it, but you have to teach them how to see it.”

In July 2020, McKinney was hired as the Kirkwood boys’ basketball head coach. Although his level of experience makes him more than qualified, something else spoke volumes to the athletics department: his commitment to the kids.

Coming to Kirkwood, I am trying to develop a culture and a mindset that hard work is everything, preparation is everything, and development is everything.

— Jimmy McKinney

“He is a guy who demands a lot, and there is definitely a level of expectation and standard that you are going to work at as a basketball player and he is not going to deviate from that standard,” Corey Nesslage, KHS athletics director, said. “In the interview process, hearing him talk about how passionate he is, not only about basketball, but more importantly the kids is where it beame very obvious. He has expectations not only on the floor, but in the classroom, life and the type of people he wants these young individuals to become.”

Every single day, including weekends, you can see McKinney in the gym working with his players. Although some players and parents may not like it, this is the only way he knows: to work on your craft every single day.

“It’s all about working hard and being dedicated,” Rhimes said. “I look at [practicing every day] as a good thing because we are getting better every day and that is going to help us win. He opened my eyes and pushes me to be better than what I am. You can tell he is passionate about the game and is going to push                                                                                                 us as much as he can.”

This year McKinney leads the Pioneers in his second season as head coach. Coaching is more than just the skill aspect for McKinney; it’s about developing the players not only as athletes, but as people and preparing them for the future.

“Coming to Kirkwood, I am trying to develop a culture and a mindset that hard work is everything, preparation is everything, and development is everything,” McKinney said. “Sports prepare you for life, period. I tell kids all the time, God gives everybody a talent and you have to use it to enhance your life. I guarantee if you come out of every practice and you work hard, you have no other choice but to get better.”