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Keystone Oaks boys hoops coach focused on changing program’s culture

Dan Elzer has one focus in his first season as Keystone Oaks boys basketball coach – changing the culture of a program that has not had a winning record since 2011-12.

“It is a day by day process,” Elzer said. “We are a few day in and I am pleased with how hard we have been working. We’re excited for this year. This group wants to make their mark.”

Elzer comes to Keystone Oaks after spending three years as an assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach at Mt. Lebanon. He is the director of Pittsburgh Legends Basketball Club, an AAU program.

Elzer replaces Tony Cherico, who coached the Golden Eagles for one season and reached the WPIAL Class AAA playoff despite a 5-16 regular season. It is the second coaching change in three seasons for the program as Gene Mercuri coached the team in 2012-13.

Despite the offseason turmoil, the players have been responsive. Elzer had open gyms three days a week and the team lifted twice a week during the fall.

But for the players, it wasn’t enough.

“They started asking me for more time to shoot,” Elzer said. “So twice a week we were in the gym at 6 a.m. shooting. We were able to get 300-400 shots up before homeroom.”

Elzer said he had no less than 12 kids show up offseason workouts during the fall even with sharing players with the football and soccer teams.

The Golden Eagles will be boosted by the return of senior point guard Kobe Phillippi. After missing last season to an injury he suffered during football, Phillippi will provide the team experience on the court.

Phillippi was the football team’s starting quarterback.

“He did an unbelievable job with Coach (Greg) Perry changing the culture of the football team in the fall,” Elzer said. “It is really nice to have that experience leading the team.”

Elzer praised the ability of the junior class and players such as guards Jake Morgan and Jake Wilson.

“That isn’t to take away from the rest of the team,” Elzer said. “Our guard play has been good and we are faster than I thought we would be.”

Keystone Oaks remains in Section 5-AAA with McGuffey, Montour, South Fayette, South Park, Trinity and West Allegheny.

“Every night we are going to need to be prepared,” Elzer said. “West Allegheny and South Fayette will both be tough after they get their football players back and into the swing of things.”

The Golden Eagles will host a tournament to kickoff the season on Dec. 5 and 6. Other teams playing in the two-day event include Bishop Canevin, Brashear and Fort Cherry.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.


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