HARRISONBURG – Carey Keyes has been approved as East Rockingham High School’s second boys’ basketball coach.
ERHS athletic director Eric Phillips announced the hiring Tuesday, following a Rockingham County school board meeting Monday night that made the move official.
Phillips said Keyes was one of seven applicants and that his familiarity with the area as a former Spotswood High School and Eastern Mennonite University star basketball player was advantageous.
“His energy and his enthusiasm just kind of stood out and his experience coaching at the college level and his success as a player,” Phillips said of the Elkton native. “He's kind of been there and done that. So we're excited about it, and we think he's going to do a great job."
Keyes replaces Mark Palmer, who went 39-52 in four seasons with the Eagles. Palmer retired in mid-March at the age of 52 after 29 years of coaching. Under Palmer, East Rock went 25-22 with back-to-back regional tournament appearances over the last two seasons.
This is the first head-coaching job for Keyes, a real estate agent who has spent the past three years coaching his son, 9-year-old Cooper, in AAU.
“I consider Spotswood my home school. I’ve always been a Blazer,” said Keyes, a member of SHS’s 1993 state championship team and the Group AA Player of the Year that season. “But at the same time, East Rock was just a great opportunity. I love the community obviously; I grew up there. It’s a close-knit community and it’s been a dream of mine to be in charge of a basketball program, and this was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.”
Keyes, who turned 39 on Thursday, has been an assistant basketball coach at Waynesboro High School and Eastern Mennonite University. He spent two seasons with the Royals under the direction of Tom Baker upon graduating from EMU in 1998 as the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
In 1998, Keyes led the Royals to their best season at the time at 16-9.
During his tenure as an EMU assistant from 2003-11, the team won a school-record 25 wins and reached the Elite 8 in the NCAA Division III tournament in 2010.
Keyes inherits an East Rock team that includes rising senior Logan Lam, a 6-foot-2 forward who averaged 19.1 points and 7.2 rebounds this past season. However, seven of East Rock’s 11 players on the 2013-14 roster will graduate.
“My coaching philosophy is kind of outlined by how my playing career and coaching career has gone,” said Keyes, who plans to begin spring workouts next week. “Growing up I was always the smallest kid and the underdog. People always said I wasn’t tall enough and wasn’t athletic enough. I always took that as a challenge. …That’s how I want the kids to play [at ERHS], with a chip on their shoulder.”