New athletic director brings years of experience to Chaparral


Russ McKinstry, the new athletic director at Chaparral High School, insists that he won't have the whistle he used during basketball practices draped around his neck.

McKinstry is the former athletic director and basketball coach at Lewis-Palmer High School, and has coached basketball for the past 25 years at Lewis-Palmer, Smoky Hill, Northridge, Greeley Central and Limon. He has been an athletic director for the last 12 years at Northridge, Smoky Hill and Lewis-Palmer.

“I think the whistle has been hung up for good,” said McKinstry, who compiled a 418-171 overall record as a high school basketball coach. “I'm really going to focus on being the best assistant principal and athletic director that I can be without the distraction of trying to lead an athletic program myself.

“I'm ready to make the next move and I'm looking forward to improving my administrative skills to another level.”

McKinstry, 51, guided the Lewis-Palmer basketball team to the past two Class 4A state championships and compiled a 114-23 record and five consecutive Final Four appearances in the last five years at the Monument school.

The last three weeks have been like watching constant fast breaks for McKinstry, a Parker resident, who resigned his positions at Lewis-Palmer to take the job to oversee the Chaparral athletic department.

“It was pretty much a whirlwind,” admitted McKinstry, who grew up in Julesburg and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado. “I live about two miles from the school. Chaparral is my neighborhood school, you could say. When I saw the position had opened up, I inquired and one thing led to another, and all of a sudden I had a job offer and I was proud to accept the offer that was extended to me.”

McKinstry takes over from Gary Thompson as Chaparral athletic director.

“I've got big shoes to fill,” said McKinstry. “Gary was a great athletic director and I'm excited for the opportunity.”

Thompson left to take a job as an assistant principal at Grandview High School.

“Russ McKinstry will do well,” said Thompson. “I took an assistant principal position at Grandview. I'll just be an assistant principal and will be working with a couple departments. My son is a junior and goes to Grandview.

“The bottom line is, I was in the Cherry Creek district for 14 years before I came to Douglas County for nine years. But with everything that is going on with the (Douglas County) Board of Education and the superintendent, I'm just not on board with their mission.”

McKinstry, meanwhile, is looking forward to trading his 80-mile round trip to Lewis-Palmer for a casual ride down Lincoln Avenue to work.

Giving up basketball will be hard, but McKinstry is anxious to watch coach Rob Johnson's Wolverines basketball team. He had a front-row seat to watch Josh Adams' overtime tip against Arapahoe that propelled Chaparral to the 2012 Class 5A state championship.

“It will be difficult,” confessed McKinstry. “I'm going to miss, not the games so much, but the teaching of the game, the practices and hanging around the staff. It's going to be an adjustment. I know Rob Johnson real well. I have tremendous respect for him.

“I was right on the baseline after we had won the state championship and had a front-row seat for that famous tip-in. I was right underneath that basket. Rob has tremendous young talent coming through the program. I'm going to enjoy watching him do his thing as a coach, see kids develop and really support him and his program. Basketball is in good hands and I'm going to try to stay out of his way and not mess things up.”

McKinstry will gladly give up the hours he spent in his car driving back and forth to Lewis-Palmer, dealing with traffic and weather conditions on Monument Hill.

“I spent an hour and a half each day in the car,” he said. “There were sometimes I'd be on the highway three to four hours at a time. I'm not going to miss that situation. Lewis-Palmer is a great school and I had a great time. It was worth every mile.

“There comes a time that it is a lot more practical to do this. I get to spend more time with my wife and I've got a grandson who is just a year old.”


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