CATLIN — Aaron Hird, almost a reluctant coach, was ready to hang up the whistle.
The Salt Fork boys' basketball head coach for five seasons, Hird was hired Wednesday night as principal at Oakwood Elementary School, which has kindergarten through sixth grade.
Though he has enjoyed coaching the sport he starred in before graduating from Armstrong-Potomac in 2000, Hird said it won't be hard to leave that phase of his life behind.
"Coaching is not something I ever saw myself getting into," Hird said. "I don't think I'll miss coaching at all. I'll miss the kids, but the coaching and the stress of the game I won't miss."
He was asked to help coach junior high basketball at Catlin as a student-teacher in 2004.
The following year, he was hired as a sixth-grade teacher and junior high boys' basketball coach. After two seasons — and an IESA state title in 2007 — he took over the Salt Fork varsity position. His five-year record was 133-25, including a Class 1A state title in 2009-10.
"My timing was very fortunate," the 30-year-old Hird said. "I've been able to do some neat things, and we had great kids."
Once again, Hird's timing is impeccable. In the summer he'll finish his administrator's certificate at Eastern Illinois University; there's the chance to follow in his father's footsteps.
"This is what I always expected to do," he said. "I never saw myself as a lifer. Never."
His father, Randy, was a school administrator at St. Joseph-Ogden, Potomac, Bismarck-Henning and Rossville-Alvin. Aaron Hird leaves a program with eight straight 20-win seasons and wins in 84.1 percent of his varsity games.
He wants no input on his successor. "Once I'm gone, they can make those decisions," he said.