Like many private schools, Lyman Ward Military Academy faces its own set of challenges when it comes to keeping coaches and athletic directors for the long haul. But Keith Elliott, who has joined the LWMA staff as AD and head basketball coach, is hoping to change all that.
“The process that we’re trying to do here is bring some stability into the athletic program,” Elliott said. “There has been a lot of turnover, and not necessarily just at Lyman Ward, but it’s at a lot of schools. It’s a battle sometimes, but it’s a challenge that I’m up to and I’m excited to take on.”
Elliott is a native of Cullman but moved to the Auburn area in 1999. Although he’s not an educator by trade — Elliott spent more than two decades as a supply chain manager for Walmart — he’s spent a lot of time around the basketball court. Since moving to Auburn, Elliott has helped coach the Auburn Raptors, a travel basketball team, and has also been a high school official.
He began his work at Lyman Ward in the mid 2000s, serving as the offensive coordinator for the football team. In 2016, Elliott was the head football coach, and he was asked in February by Lt. Col. Doug Reynolds if he’d be interested in the athletic director’s job.
Becoming the head basketball coach seemed like the obvious next step after being named AD.
“Basketball is something that has really always been a passion of mine,” Elliott said. “It was also an opportunity where I could take on two roles, so it really helps the school out.”
Elliott’s coaching philosophy for basketball is living by the mantra, “Defense wins championships.”
“Basketball is a team sport, and you win games by playing defense,” Elliott said. “My philosophy is that we’ll press a lot and we’ll run a lot of traps and half-court traps. Offensively, I tend to like to run the flex offense for the most part. I’m not against pushing the ball down the court if we can get out. I think people enjoy a fast-paced game, so that’s what I want to bring in my basketball philosophy. But if you can’t stop anybody, you won’t win many games.”
Elliott’s first big task as athletic director is to hire a new football coach, as the season is just around the corner. He is hoping to fill those shoes in the next few weeks. But being a military boarding school poses a distinct challenge of not really knowing much about the team until the players arrive on campus in August.
“The biggest thing from year to year is trying to establish some rapport with students and even with the parents,” Elliott said. “That’s one thing our new president is big on is communication, and I think that goes a long, long way. And we have made some changes to help us be more successful from an athletic standpoint.”