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After playing basketball at Eminence High School for four years in the 1990s, and spending a six-year coaching span between Berea and Gallatin County, Chris Nethery will return to his roots in Eminence to start his first head coaching position at the varsity level.
Nethery officially accepted the position as the boys’ basketball head coach July 14, following in the footsteps of Keith Blackburn, who coached for seven seasons and sent in his letter of resignation June 30. Nethery graduated from EHS in 1997, got his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 2002 and his Master’s Degree from EKU in 2006. After a decade away from Eminence’s basketball court, he will return to the sideline this year — though he has since traded in his sneakers for a clipboard.
“My main goal was always to get a head coaching position,” Nethery said. “You just never know what’s going to come open. I just kind of slid into this one at the last minute. I’m definitely happy to be moving back home.”
Blackburn decided to leave Eminence for South Oldham High School after compiling a 68-102 record during seven seasons, including the school’s first back-to-back winning records in 20 years. That decision left an opening in the program, which Nethery gladly accepted a few days after an interview June 10. He will also be teaching Special Education at Eminence Middle School.
“Chris is an excellent teacher and he’s been an excellent assistant, ready to become a head coach,” Eminence’s principal, Steve Frommeyer, said of the replacement. “He’s just a great guy. He has ties to the community and we feel very fortunate to get him.”
Nethery’s parents live in Eminence, along with his wife’s parents, and his brother is a student at EHS. And his wife had their first baby, a boy, 16 months ago.
“Both sets of in-laws are definitely pumped to get us back home,” an excited Nethery said.
During his playing days at Eminence, Nethery started off and on during his first three years and started every game as a 6-2 senior. He played two years for Bart Flener and two for James Neihof. Afterwards, he continued to play basketball, in intramural games, at EKU.
Nethery first got the itch to coach while playing under the guidance of Flener, who had his players coach AAU basketball to the younger players in the community during the offseason.
“They started leagues in Henry County for third to seventh graders, and he thought it would be excellent if we coached them since they looked up to us,” Nethery remembered. “I’ve always really admired coaches.”
During his final year in Richmond, finishing his degree at EKU, Nethery coached the Berea freshman team. Afterwards, he coached the Gallatin freshman team for a season before becoming the head JV coach and assistant varsity coach for the previous four years.
“I wanted to stay in the 8th Region, and Gallatin had an opening so I took it,” said Nethery, who also taught eighth-grade US History. “Plus, Jon Jones is a really good coach and I knew that.”
Last season, Gallatin finished with an impressive 24-8 record, won the 31st District tournament and reached the championship game of the 8th Region tournament, but lost to Shelby County by just one point (49-48) in the finals.
Meanwhile, Eminence went 2-23 and lost to Anderson County (77-28) in the opening round of the 30th District tournament.
“I know it’s going to take a while to build up the program,” Nethery said. “I was part of a successful team at Gallatin, so we have a model in place. The goal at first is to be competitive with the Class ‘A’ teams in the region. Then, we’ll build from there.”
Nethery knows it starts with the younger players, and the offseason work the players give.
“I want to start working with the young kids at a lower age level than high school so that when I finally do get them, they know what I want them to know. We need to travel, work hard in the pre-season and do everything we can to get these kids interested in basketball.”
Nethery said next summer he plans to play a complete pre-season of games with the team, which will travel to out-of-season tournaments and get in plenty of games.
The basketball squad, with a new coach in charge for the first time since 2001, will start conditioning in September with weight lifting, running and shoot arounds, and will officially start practice Oct. 15.
“I know a lot of kids won’t pick up a basketball until the season starts again, which puts us behind the eight ball a little,” Nethery said.
“We just need to let them know what’s out there and get more people involved.”
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