Of the 30 first-year NCAA Division I head coaches throughout college basketball in the 2016-17 season, few experienced more success than Kyle Keller who is set to begin his second season in charge of the Lumberjacks in 2017-18.
Through his first season in charge of an NCAA Division I men's basketball team, Keller led the 'Jacks to a record of 18-15 and a runner-up finish in the Southland Conference. In postseason play, SFA's first-year head man became just the third SFA bench boss in program history to win his Southland Conference debut after the 'Jacks defeated Lamar in the quarterfinal round.
Following a semifinal round loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Southland Conference Tournament, Keller oversaw SFA's first-ever run to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament - the program's fifth-straight postseason appearance. In all, Keller's 18 wins were the eighth-most in the nation by a first-year head coach in 2016-17 and the second-most by an SFA head coach in his first season.
Three of Keller's players - Ty Charles (NABC All-District 23 Second Team), Leon Gilmore III (Southland Conference All-Tournament Team) and TJ Holyfield (All-Southland Conference Second Team) - earned individual accolades at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign.
The native of Dallas, Texas, was named the 12th head coach of the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball team on Monday, April 4, 2016, after wrapping up his fifth season as an assistant coach on head coach Billy Kennedy’s staff at Texas A&M. That brought his grand total of coaching experience to an even 25 years at locations also including Kansas, Oklahoma State, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio.
The final season of his half-decade of service on the Aggies’ bench also coincided with the squad’s return to the NCAA Tournament following a five-year absence. Led on the hardwood by the likes of Jalen Jones, Danuel House and a host of others, Texas A&M matched the program’s best run in the national tournament by advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time ever and the first time since 2007.
Keller's assignment as the Lumberjacks’ head man is his first such job at the NCAA Division I level. He served as the head coach at Tyler Junior College for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns.
Keller’s name is one synonymous with success on the recruiting trail as the Dallas, Texas, native has established a reputation of one of the nation’s best in that particular area. That standing was validated in a major way in 2015 when the Aggies roped in four of the top eight players in the state of Texas, giving the SEC program a consensus top-ten class. Since 2013, the tireless efforts on the part of Keller have resulted in seven ESPN Top 100 players inking with Texas A&M.
Some 21 former pupils of the long-tenured assistant have played or are currently playing in the NBA. A 13-year fixture on the sidelines in the solid Big 12 Conference before A&M’s move to the SEC, Keller has been a part of five conference titles, nine NCAA Tournament runs, three Elite Eight appearances and a trip to the Final Four in 2004.
During Keller’s tenure in College Station, the Aggies saw 10 players garner all-conference accolades including a trio of First-Team All-SEC selections in Elston Turner in 2013, Danuel House in 2015 and Jalen Jones in 2016.
In his three seasons in Lawrence, Keller was on staff for 95 wins, three straight Big 12 regular-season championships (2009, 2010, 2011) and two Big 12 postseason championship titles (2010, 2011). KU entered the 2010 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and advanced to the Elite Eight. While he was on staff at Kansas, two Jayhawks were lottery picks in the NBA Draft (Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry) while Sherron Collins also played in the league for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Prior to his stint with the Jayhawks, Keller served nine years on the Oklahoma State men's basketball staff under head coaches Eddie Sutton and Sean Sutton. As director of basketball operations and assistant coach at OSU, Keller helped in recruiting, coaching, scouting, academics and team travel. In Stillwater, Keller served as an assistant coach from 1999-2002, as the director of basketball operations from 2002-06 and assistant coach from 2006-08.
While at OSU, Keller was instrumental in the development of 11 all-conference performers, including All-Americans Tony Allen, John Lucas and Joey Graham. Keller has also coached numerous NBA players including the aforementioned All-Americans as well as Maurice Baker, Stephen Graham, Desmond Mason, Ivan McFarlin, Melvin Sanders at Oklahoma State and P.J. Brown and Kaniel Dickens during other coaching stints.
Keller was on staff for OSU's run to the 2004 Final Four, two Elite Eight teams in 2000 and 2004 and three Sweet 16 appearances. The Cowboys advanced to postseason play nine times, including six NCAA Tournaments during Keller's tenure. Additionally, OSU's 2006 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com.
Keller started his coaching career on the Louisiana Tech staff from 1990-94 where the Bulldogs advanced to the postseason twice. From Ruston, he went to Tyler Junior College as an assistant coach the next two years, advancing to the regional playoffs and national tournament. He then served one season on staff at Texas-San Antonio (1996-97) before returning as head coach at Tyler JC.
Keller earned his bachelor's degree in business management from OSU in 1990 and his master's degree in human relations and supervision from Louisiana Tech in 1991. He was a student assistant coach as an undergrad at OSU, a staff which included current KU head coach Bill Self.
Keller is married to the former Chaunsea Stickler, a native of Liberal, Kan. The couple has a daughter, Kenzie, and a son, Kemper.