Gene Flax, a veteran athletic director and football coach in Kansas over the past two decades, has been named the interim athletic director for Ulysses High School for the 2018-19 school year.

That announcement was made Wednesday by USD 214 Superintendent Dave Younger following the Board of Education’s approval of Flax’s hire at its meeting Monday night.

Flax, who served as the athletic director at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays from 1996 to 2016 while also serving as the Monarchs’ football coach for 14 of those seasons, was expected to arrive in Ulysses Wednesday night and begin his duties Thursday, Younger said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Telegram.

Most recently, Flax was the athletic director at Russell High School from 2016 to 2018, leaving the district at the end of the 2018 school calendar year.

Flax’s interim position follows by a week the hiring of Rick Cue as the interim football coach for the Tigers, in the aftermath of the unexpected death of football coach/athletic director Jason Kenny on July 24. Kenny had been the football coach for the past 18 seasons while also assuming the AD duties in 2009.

“Gene kind of reached out to us in the aftermath to see if there was anything he could do to help out,” Younger said. “He (Flax) knew Jason from being in the same positions at TMP.”

Younger said the district then checked out multiple references on Flax and brought him to Ulysses on Saturday for an interview that was headed up by Younger, Principal Mark Paul and USD 457 Assistant Superintendent Chad Krug.

“We had looked at some of our in-house personnel and for a variety of reasons, we couldn’t come up with a good fit,” Younger said. “We had a series of discussions with Gene, and when he came down for the interview, we knew he had a great reputation around the state.”

Younger said that after discussing Flax with other school administrators, it became apparent that they had a qualified candidate.

“After we talked to folks, it was a no-brainer for us, and we’re very excited to have Gene here for the year,” Younger said. “Everyone knows this is a tough situation, and a tough year for everyone here, but we’re confident Gene is the right guy to serve our student-athletes this year as we will look for permanent positions for the 2019-2020 school year.”

Flax said the entire situation was a tough one to figure out what the right direction to go would be. At the end of consideration, however, was his respect for Kenny after having coached against him for a number of years when the two schools were members of the Mid-State League, and then at athletic administrator meetings in recent years as well.

“I’ve known Jason a long time, and coached against him and we’ve spent time together — and he was a quality guy, a great guy,” Flax said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening while en route to Ulysses. “I’ve known Mark Paul (Ulysses Principal) when he was at Russell, so after an email and a phone call, things just kind of fell into place. Again, I think out of respect for Jason, this was the big draw.”

Flax said his top priority once he begins his duties will be to insure the safety and health of the student-athletes, and to provide as much support and leadership to his coaches as possible.

“I want to give all the coaches the opportunity to succeed,” Flax said. “I hope I can be there to provide leadership and to give them some insight on how to be successful.”

Flax said he would be introduced to the student body Thursday morning, and after spending the day at school, would attend as many of the fall team practices as possible, and then meet with the entire high school coaching staff in the evening.

“I’m just going to try and get a feel for how things are going for everyone and what they need,” Flax said. “I’m familiar with Ulysses, and they’ve had a great tradition through the years. They’ve enjoyed a lot of success and we want to continue that.”

During his education career, Flax has also taught physical education, weightlifting, driver’s education while also serving as an assistant and head track coach.

A 1973 graduate of Ransom High School, he attended St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City where he played sports and earned a bachelor’s degree in education. His first coaching job was in Ingalls, and he spent three years there coaching the Bulldogs. From there he returned to his high school alma mater and taught and coached at Ransom for two years. Following that he was teaching and coaching at Kinsley High School, prior to his two-decade tenure at TMP-Marian in Hays.

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