‘Checks all of those boxes.’ Tates Creek introduces new boys basketball coach.

While Tates Creek High School’s boys basketball program has fallen on hard times of late, there’s no denying Commodores athletics have a proud tradition to go along with the completely new facilities that opened in 2022.

That’s part of what brought former Pendleton County and Ryle coach Keaton Belcher back into coaching after a two-season hiatus. Belcher was introduced as the next head coach of Tates Creek on Tuesday.

“Everybody I’ve talked to has asked me ‘Why Tates Creek?’ and I always respond this way: ‘Why not Tates Creek?’” Belcher told the players gathered for his announcement. “We have everything here — a great education, phenomenal Division I-like facilities and great student athletes. I could not be more proud to be your basketball coach today.”

Tates Creek High School’s new boys basketball head coach Keaton Belcher, left, spoke with members of the team during his introduction at the school on Tuesday.
Tates Creek High School’s new boys basketball head coach Keaton Belcher, left, spoke with members of the team during his introduction at the school on Tuesday.

A native of Butler, Belcher, 37, played for Pendleton County from 2001 to 2005 and was named northern Kentucky player of the year during a senior season in which the Wildcats won the 10th Region and reached the Boys’ Sweet 16. He went on to play at Belmont University where he was part of three NCAA Tournament teams.

Upon graduation, Belcher became a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky before taking over his alma mater as Pendleton County head coach in 2014.

“There were certain things that we were really looking for: we wanted a coach that had head coaching experience; we checked that box; a coach that had a high level of X’s and O’s expertise; we found that; and then someone that could help you all become young men,” Tates Creek athletic director Larry Poynter said. “Coach Belcher checks all of those boxes.”

At Pendleton County, Belcher coached 2019 Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen, who went on to play for Kentucky and Western Kentucky. Belcher enjoyed his best seasons at Pendleton with Allen in the lineup, going 18-12 when Allen was a sophomore and 24-8 during Allen’s junior year in which he scored 31.8 points per game. Allen’s senior year was cut short by injury and the Wildcats went 10-18 in Belcher’s final season at Pendleton.

The following year, Belcher became head coach at Ryle in the 9th Region where he went 34-50 in three seasons before stepping down in 2022. His overall record is 117-122 over eight seasons.

“I’ve been blessed because I’ve coached in two different regions … the 10th and the 9th in that order. And both are phenomenal regions,” Belcher said. “Coaching against (Cooper’s) Tim Sullivan three times a season for three straight years will make you a better coach. … I do think my basketball coaching level enhanced during my three years at Ryle.”

Belcher succeeds Jarrod Gay who went 56-113 in seven seasons in the hyper-competitive 43rd District of the 11th Region that also includes past state champions Lexington Catholic, Lafayette and Paul Laurence Dunbar along with a past All “A” state champ Lexington Christian.

The Commodores, who had only one senior on the roster, finished last season 4-25. Dawson Garth, a 5-foot-9 junior, and Stephen Franklin, a 5-10 sophomore, led them in scoring with 14.2 and 10.4 points per game, respectively.

Gay’s best season came in 2019-20, a 17-14 campaign that saw the Commodores finish as 43rd District runner-up and stun Madison Central with a 57-55 win in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament on the Indians’ floor. They were knocked out that year by eventual region champ Scott County in the semifinals.

Belcher is only the ninth coach in Tates Creek’s 60-year history. Tates Creek last won the 43rd District in 2010 and 2011 under Wayne Breeden, who was among those in attendance Tuesday along with the coach Tates Creek’s gym is named for, Nolan Barger.

Barger amassed 540 career wins and led the Commodores to the 1991 11th Region championship on the way to a Boys’ Sweet 16 runner-up finish. Dom Fucci, another Centre Parkway legend as a baseball player and coach and the Commodores’ 1975 Mr. Basketball, sat in as well.

“The standard has been set,” Belcher told his future players. “If we lose, we’ll be hungry at the next practice. When we win — notice I said when, not if — we’ll be even hungrier at the next practice. You will be prepared for the next opponent. You will enhance your skill level.

“All you’ve got to do is show up and not make excuses. The rest will take care of itself.”

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