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9Qs with Coach Keni Jo Burns-sponsored by Tropical Smoothie Cafe

9QS WITH KENI JO BURNS

Girls’ basketball followers might know her better as Keni Jo Lippe who had an outstanding high school career at Adair and went on to play at Oral Roberts. She’s now in her first year as the girls’ basketball coach at Hilldale and VYPE asked her to talk about her basketball career.

  1. VYPE: Let’s start with your high school days at Adair.

Keni Jo: “I owe so much of my success to amazing coaches, teammates and a community that believed in me more than I realized. I have the school career and single game scoring records and we went to the state tournament all four years I played, going to the state finals my freshman year and to the semis the other three years. I was an OBGCA All State pick but got hurt in the Faith Seven game and didn’t get to play in the OCA All-State game.”

  • VYPE: You are a coach’s kid so tell us about that side of your life and the impact it had.

Keni Jo:” Both of my parents were coaches at some point of my life. My dad was the football coach at Adair so I always tell people I was raised like a football player (which may explain why I fouled so much lol). My parents always preached to me about how important attitude and effort were no matter how a game was going for me or our team. They talked about character and always doing the right thing when no one was looking. They never let me get too high or too low and the thing I am most grateful for is that they never let me believe I had “arrived” as a player. We talked after every game about what I could have done better. I think it’s hard to be a coach’s kid, but I know it made me tougher and more than anything, they taught me how to be a good person and that’s what I’m most grateful for.”

  • VYPE: Tell us about your playing days at ORU. Any highlights?

Keni Jo: “I got to play five years of college basketball due to Covid. I hold the single game Summit League scoring record with 46 points, and I had 1742 career points. The highlight of my time there were my teammates, many of whom are still my greatest friends. There is just something different about the relationships you build through college sports. College basketball was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I would easily do it all over again because of the life lessons I learned through that experience.”

  • VYPE: Last year you served as a graduate assistant for the ORU men’s team which made it to the NCAA tournament. Tell us about that experience.

Keni Jo: That was the most incredible experience of my life and was the hardest thing to see come to an end because of all that I learned about basketball from a coaching perspective. The coaching staff was great but the guys on the team made that year the greatest. I’ve never seen a group of people want to win so badly, and they worked for hours in the gym every day. Now when I’m working with my girls here at Hilldale, I think about how the ORU coaches approached every day and I try to model that.

  • VYPE: Which leads to the next question, how did you come to land at Hilldale?

Keni Jo: “My husband has been on the Hilldale football staff for three years and I’ve watched the way the administration, the staff and the coaches have poured into him as a young coach and knew I wanted to be a part of that atmosphere and they thought I was a good fit for the job.”

  • VYPE: Growing up was there a high school or college player that was a role model for you?

Keni Jo: “My role model was Kevi Luper who played at Adair and also went on to ORU. Everything she was as a player, I tried to imitate. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.”

  • VYPE: Have you developed a coaching philosophy and, if so, what is it?

Keni Jo: “My coaching philosophy is to not only coach them to be great basketball players, but to be great people after their playing days end. I try to coach them in a way that sets them up for success in life. I think if they can be great people with good character away from basketball those characteristics will show up on the court as well. I tell them it’s not the mistakes that matter to me because we all make them. It’s what they do after the mistakes that I pay attention to.”

  • VYPE: What are some of things you learned watching your dad coach that you can apply to your first head coaching job?

Keni Jo: “One of the big things I learned is that if you’re going to coach your players hard, you have to learn to love them even harder. I watched him do this all through his coaching career. Whenever he had to get on one of his football players, they were always the first one he would go to and put an arm around and tell them he loved them. Another lesson I learned is that there’s no job that’s too small for the head coach to do and if I ever start thinking there is, I need to re-evaluate why I’m doing what I do. From picking up trash, to doing the laundry, to sweeping up, these are small jobs that have to get done and the title ‘head coach’ doesn’t mean I’m too high up the ladder to do them.”

  • VYPE: Where would you like to see yourself in 5-10 years?

Keni Jo: “I hope to see some championship rings obviously. More than that I hope to have wedding invitations, college graduation invitations, baby shower invites or visits at practice from my former players. Great relationships are important and I think if they feel like including me in their post-high school life, I would consider my job well done no matter what my coaching record is.”

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