He just spent a handful of days up in Central Texas, as one of 28 high school coaches at a TABC youth basketball camp. Long hours, tons of games, the works. But David Keith, like the other mentors in attendance at Georgetown, lives for it; they got into the business because they love the sport, the games … and they love the guys.
“We had some problems on one of the days, our team lost like six of eight times, so I had to really try and reach my kids,” said Keith, the EHS grad who has taken the helm at Vela after a long and fine career at Sharyland. “We came back the next day and played into the semifinals, beat a bunch of teams that clobbered us the day before. In that short period of time, I was able to show them that I cared about them, wanted them to improve, and then we did all that the last day, very satisfying.”
And that is the mentality Keith is taking into the shot of a lifetime, a job at a premier school in his hometown. Get to know the players, gain their trust and vice versa, and let the rest take care of itself.
“It’s been a traumatic time over here, I know that,” said Keith, in reference to the team’s suspension from the playoffs last season due to the use of an ineligible player, and a subsequent, shocking coaching change. “But we are going to focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday. This was a great opportunity for me, it just sort of fell into place, and I truly believe it was my calling to come back home and coach this team.”
In taking over for the wildly successful Lalo Rios – another hometown boy made good – Keith is emphatic in his praise for what the program has accomplished in five seasons, including a trip to the state tournament.
“They obviously had a great team and Lalo was an awesome coach for them,” he said. “Now we turn the page and while we may do things a bit differently at times, it’s not one of those things where we won’t recognize what’s been done here. A lot of people are hurting at Vela and my job is to come in and work hard, develop the kids, and keep the excellent tradition going strong.”
Keith says that the opportunity to coach is always an opportunity to help the players.
“Having access to these kids, being able to help them grow, achieve their goals, have them benefit from your coaching, that’s what it’s all about,” he explained. “In my time at Sharyland I was able to do that consistently. We had a lot of great players and some of them, I am proud to say, have become real friends. I look forward to building those sorts of relationships here.”
He also says that the familiarity is fun, too.
“Hey man, it’s every coach’s dream, to walk the streets of your hometown, and in my case be in the same gym and campus,” he noted. “In my career I have learned a ton, made my mistakes and improved, and I am really ready to see how I, we, can do here.”
To that end, Keith suggests that if people want to assume that the SaberCats may be down after the coaching change and drama, fine with him.
“I think this team will be underestimated, which I guess I understand,” he said. “But let me tell you, there is some real talent here, even with the graduation of some really fine players. People don’t quite know what we have, what we are going to be, but I have a feeling that they’ll find that out once the season hits.”
The new Vela head honcho raves about the potential of junior Josh Diaz, and says that in his early view, post Noah Sekinger has the chance to be an elite player. He is excited about having the athleticism and leadership of transfer Jeremy Rodriguez, and spoke highly of several other Sabes, including returner Trey Chavana and a cast of freshman with tremendous upside.
“It’s a fresh group, building chemistry in the summer, and some young guys may be able to help us, we will see,” he commented. “We’re going to try some new things, at least from the kids’ perspective, and we will gradually build the trust that a basketball team needs in order to win. Bottom line, I cannot wait to coach these kids!”