It's not heaven, just Shepherd

April 06, 2001

It's not heaven, just Shepherd

Charles Town native Tyler to coach Rams in men's basketball


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When heading to Shepherdstown on Thursday, Ken Tyler listened to a little voice.

It was the voice of John Denver ... and he was telling Tyler that he made the right decision.

The decision was to return home. Home to Jefferson County, where he grew up, to take the job as basketball coach at Shepherd College, a position he officially accepted Friday in at a press conference in the skybox suite at the Butcher Center.

"When I was driving down here last night to prepare for this press conference, I kept hearing that old song 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia,'" Tyler said, already decked out in Shepherd blue and gold. "John Denver kept singing 'Take me home, country roads. To the place where I belong.' This is it. This is home."


Tyler comes to Shepherd College after a successful six-year stint at Albright College, a Division III school in Reading, Pa., where he had a 89-64 record. He hiring ends a month-long search to replace Denny Alexander, who was fired after a 87-129 record in eight years, including seven straight losing seasons.

"I'm overwhelmed to have Jefferson County show up to this press conference," Tyler said to a room of family and old local friends along with Shepherd officials. "It is both an honor and a privilege to be named the coach of the Shepherd College basketball team. I'm thrilled."

Tyler was chosen from a search which selected four finalists out of a group of nearly 100 applicants.

"We found a great candidate in Ken," Shepherd athletic director Monte Cater said. "It was amazing how much interest there was in the job. We had a lot of resumes and e-mails about it and the phone calls haven't stopped. We realized that this is a good job. I'm happy with the choice we made."

The addition of Tyler gives Shepherd a third major coach who was raised within miles of the campus. Baseball coach Wayne Riser is from Hedgesville, women's basketball coach Betsy Blose is from Harrisonburg, Va., and attended and coached at James Madison, where she met Tyler when he as an assistant under Lefty Driesell.

"We were very lucky (to get a coach who was from the area," Cater said. "We had to look for a fit. We had to look for someone with a masters' degree because of the requirement to teach, so that cut down on some of the applicants."

Tyler, who has a master's in education, comes to Shepherd after rebuilding the Albright program. Tyler guided Albright to Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth championship in 1997-98. The program qualified for four straight berths in the conference tournament, including three trips to the East Coast Athletic Conference championships. Albright was 16-9 last season and 9-5 in the MAC.

Tyler was raised in Charles Town and attended Charles Town Junior High, where he was coached by local legend Harry Barker. He left the area to attend Episcopal High in Virginia before playing guard at William & Mary. Tyler spent time as an assistant coach at Division II East Stroudsburg (Pa.), Division III Roanoke (Va.) College and James Madison along with a stint as head coach at Gloucester (Va.) High before taking over at Albright.

"At Albright, I took over a program at a place that needed a coat of paint and we turned it around," Tyler said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to re-establish Shepherd College basketball back into the community. We will have a lot of hard work, but hard work will be the our mantra."

Tyler will attempt to apply "another coat of paint" to a Shepherd program which is covered in tradition, but has suffered a stretch of rough times. Not only will he be in charge of building a winning program, but to bring fans back to the Butcher Center. He plans to do it all with the company he keeps.

"I'm not going to lament the past. I can't. I have to be positive to our kids, recruits and possible donors to the program," Tyler said. "I'm going to try and use that connection to the past for all it's worth, but what happened in the past happened and I can't do anything about it. I have been give every chance to put my imprint on the program."

That imprint comes from his "triangle philosophy," Tyler's code which requires his players to act accordingly as a person, a student and as an athlete.

"I demand the players to dress, speak and act appropriately," Tyler said. "There is a certain way you dress and speak and act when you are practicing and another one when you are meeting with a professor or a girlfriend. Discipline is important. It is the cornerstone of the program. ... The players will go to class and represent Shepherd in a first-class manner.

"Nothing else will be tolerated."

Tyler comes to Shepherd at a disadvantage. The national signing period for basketball recruits begins on Monday. Despite the desire to improve the program, Tyler said he plans to stick to his own code of integrity.

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