On the wall just outside of the gym at Oyster River High School (ORHS) is a board labeled ‘1000 Point Club.’ Listed second on that board, commemorating the 18 Oyster River basketball players who achieved 1000 points in their high school careers here, is Randy Kinzly. An Oyster River alum and former coach, a UNH graduate, and a Nike salesman for nearly 40 years, Kinzly has returned to the ORHS hardwood to coach the girls’ varsity basketball team.
Between passion for basketball and his mentorship of his players, Kinzly has received a warm welcome from the girls’ varsity team. “For me to come back to Oyster River is crazy. The kids have responded really well; the town and the parents have been very open. They just have opened their arms to me, you know, they’ve just been very supportive. It’s been a really great experience so far,” Kinzly said.
Kinzly moved to Durham from Buffalo, New York in 1974. Before coming here, he had been an avid football player, but ORHS’ lack of a team led Kinzly to basketball. “[I] had never really played basketball, you know, just goofy gym things. I never really picked up a basketball; I just played football.”
Kinzly’s love for the sport grew quickly, to the point where he would attend every practice for both the girls’ and boys’ team. “I just started playing, probably too much as it hurt my studies, but I played all the time.”
In his basketball career at ORHS Kinzly played in two championship games, with the team winning it all his sophomore year. “There were really no rules on [school] buses back then. We literally were in the aisle dancing and singing and going all over. […] That bus ride home from Plymouth was spectacular. I’ll never forget that.”
After graduating from ORHS in 1977, Kinzly took a post-grad year at Central Maine Institute, a boarding school in Pittsfield, Maine. There, he worked on improving his game and his grades before signing a full-ride scholarship to play basketball for the University of Maine (UMaine).
However, the summer before he began studying at UMaine, Kinzly’s older brother, Michael Kinzly, passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident. “I was a young kid, really just out of high school. It was so unexpected. It was devastating, because he was my best friend.”
Kinzly returned home to Durham to be with his parents. “My parents were just having a really hard time. […] I didn’t want to stay in my hometown to play basketball. I wanted to kind of branch out and see the world a little bit, so to speak, but I just couldn’t leave my parents.”
Dedicating his time to his family and earning a scholarship, Kinzly reached out to Gerry Friel, head basketball coach at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) throughout the 1970s and 80s, if he could play back home at UNH, leaving his contract with UMaine behind. “I went to Coach Friel and asked, ‘Is there any opportunity for me […] to play basketball here?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. You’re here. So, walk on and we’ll see what happens.’” His second semester that freshman year, Friel offered Kinzly a fullride scholarship to UNH.
Kinzly played four years at UNH, being the captain of the team for three of those years.
Friel was a mentor to Kinzly during that time in his life. “I still look up to him in a lot of ways.” Both in basketball and in life, Friel taught Kinzly to “Play as a family. If you can get a cohesive group together, even if you aren’t as talented as some teams that are not cohesive, you’re going to be successful in one way or another. It doesn’t always equate to wins and losses, but it equates to long-term friendships, long-term relationships, and just a sense of doing something together, which I think is very powerful.”
Right after graduating from UNH in 1981, before moving back to York, Kinzly was offered a job in sales at Nike after an assistant football coach at UNH who worked for Nike told him about an open position. “I was [with Nike] for 39 years. I did all of our urban, inter-city business, all over New England and into New York City.”
Kinzly’s most memorable moment with Nike, although he regrets it now, was in 1984, during Michael Jordan’s rookie season. Jordan gave a presentation introducing himself to Nike’s sales force, which at the time included Kinzly. After the presentation, Jordan and the sales force were talking in the lobby. “[Jordan] goes ‘so what are you guys doing this afternoon?’ and we go ‘I don’t know, we’ve got some meetings and so forth,’ and he goes ‘I want to go bowling. Can you guys go bowling with me?’ and I said ‘no, man, we’ve got meetings.’ […] so I said no to Michael Jordan.”
Now retired, Kinzly says, “It was a long, long ride, but it was just a great ride for me. I still stay at the store just to stay loyal to the company. […] It’s hard to explain the experiences I’ve had and where that afforded me to travel, and who I met, and who I was able to speak to and become friends with is really fascinating.” Kinzly remains an ‘athlete’ with Nike, working at the Nike outlet in Kittery, Maine.
While with Nike full-time, Kinzly couldn’t coach often. He started right out of college in 1982 coaching at summer camps and moved to coaching an 8th grade girls’ team in York, Maine after he moved back there in 1988. As time went on, Kinzly moved towards coaching more often. He became the boys’ junior varsity coach at York High School, then a boys’ assistant varsity coach at ORHS. He then went back to coaching 8th grade girls’ at York Middle School for 8 years before returning this summer to ORHS to coach the girls’ varsity team.
“[Andy Lathrop] just called me this summer and said, ‘would you be interested in at least thinking about taking this job?’” Kinzly wasn’t sure if he wanted to return to coaching at the high school level but decided to give it a shot and accepted the invitation that Lathrop, athletic director at ORHS, had offered him.
Now back at ORHS, Kinzly is motivated by his ability to teach his team, both as a coach and mentor. “I love to teach the game [of basketball], and […] my real hope is that, when this is all said and done, that I’m not just teaching basketball, but that I’m teaching other things about, like, how to move on in life, and how to succeed, and how to prepare for things that may happen.”
Riley Drapeau (‘24), a player for the varsity girls’ team, appreciates Kinzly’s passion and mentorship. “He just cares for us so much. […] It’s definitely been really good for me as a player and me as a person; it really helps me grow.”
Kinzly’s direction has led the team to playing as a family, the same way Friel taught him while he played for UNH. “He’s just really shaped our team in a way that we didn’t think we could, because now we have a lot of cohesion, and we actually feel like a family and a team. We’re not only playing better than we did last year, but we’re actually like a family,” says Drapeau.
Drapeau considers Kinzly the best coach she’s ever had, and described him as “outstanding, compassionate, and caring.”
Although the team loves Kinzly as a coach, Kinzly would rather be considered a teacher. “Many times, I don’t really care to be called ‘coach.’ I believed that my interest is more in teaching than it is coaching. I know that there’s some similarities, but that’s where my mindset is, so that’s what I try to do each day with these kids.”
Kristina Hathaway, an assistant coach with Kinzly, has seen the cohesion that the team has found with Kinzly as their coach. He’s made their season not about winning, but more about having a fun, meaningful season as a team. “After the first game that we’d won, Randy had brough little tiny water bottles and balloons. He said to me before the game, ‘I hope I’m not jinxing it, but I did bring water bottles and balloons,’ and he hid them in the locker room. After our first win, we went into the locker room and we broke out all the water bottles, and […] we sprayed [them] everywhere. And the girls went bananas.”
Kinzly looks up to his team that same way they look up to him. “These girls have grown from the time I met in June, to where they are now, so I don’t think there’s any limits on this group of kids. I’ve been so impressed with them: how hard they’ve worked, how well they listen, and how well they take to instruction. They’ve been great.”
As the season continues, Kinzly wants the team to have their heads held high. “I just want […] these young women to feel very comfortable in their own voice, in who they are, and understand that they can do anything they want to do. They literally can accomplish anything.”