Tuesday, February 5, 2019

SUU to Basketball Coach

If you were a Thunderbird in the nineties and attended the annual Basketball Bash, you might recall the night “The Jackson 5” made a cameo. Once the starting five on the men’s basketball team traded their uniforms for bell bottoms, one thing became clear: Keith “Shaggy” Berard’s rockin’ robin performance endeared himself to the T-Bird faithful.

The Houston native and St. Thomas High School Graduate made his Cedar City debut in 1993 as a point guard for the men’s basketball team. After some early hankerings for Texas, Berard soon found that SUU had become his home away from home. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996, majoring in communications and minoring in physical education.

“Southern Utah University taught me how to adapt to being far away from home,” he says. “Once I came to SUU, I rarely - if at all - was able to go home. But being around my teammates every day made them family and took away any thoughts of being homesick. I still keep in touch with these guys because we are brothers, just from different mothers.”

While it may have been Keith’s epic dance moves that first put him on the T-Bird map, it was his performances as an all-conference basketball player, DJ on Radio 911, and stints on SUTV that connected him to students from all different backgrounds.

“I loved the hands-on experience we had as students at SUU,” he says. “I was a part of a great communications department, TV studio and radio station. I was able to have my own radio show and produced the Coaches Corner on SUTV. I really enjoyed those opportunities.”

Berard anticipated extending his love of basketball into a sports journalism career, but his playing experience and physical education classes gave him the sideline bug.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved with basketball, but I thought it would be in front of a camera,” Berard explains, “But once I graduated from SUU in 1996 and played professionally in Switzerland, I knew I wanted to coach.”

Through coaching contacts at his high school and junior college, Berard pursued his first coaching job at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

“School had already started, but I called the head coach and he told me if I could get out there by Wednesday, the job was mine,” he says. “I packed my things as soon as we hung up the phone, loaded up my Ford Ranger, and headed out to West Texas.”

Berard credits his coaches and teammates at Southern Utah University and beyond for providing inspiration in his coaching career.

“The coaches I played for were mentors and helped guide me as a player and now as a coach,” he says. “It meant a lot to me being named team MVP because that let me know the extra work I put into basketball was noticed. All of my teammates I played with, and even some of the guys who came after me, are some the friendships I value the most.”

Coaching has even brought Berard back to Utah with stints at the former College of Eastern Utah (now USU Eastern) and Weber State, including a chance to coach against his alma mater during the 2012-13 season. Today he is back on the sideline in his hometown of Houston serving as an assistant coach at Houston Baptist University (HBU).

“This is actually my second stop at HBU,” he explains. “Head Coach Ron Cottrell has been here for 28 years and restarted the program from scratch in 1991. What really drew my attention to the job was in 2007, HBU was returning back to Division I. Playing at SUU in the early 90’s as an independent school gave me the background to be able to relate to recruiting student-athletes who would be playing in a similar situation to myself.”

Basketball is not the only arena where Berard has excelled as he has put together a stellar support team that guides him in his life when he steps off the basketball court. He and wife Sabrina McNair have been married for 18 years and have two daughter, Katelyn Dion (age 16) and Khloe Dion (age 12). Being the minority gender in the household, his wife gave him a special gift.

“Since we didn’t have a boy, Sabrina allowed me to give both girls my middle name.” 

These days Berard has traded his MVP trophies for a spectator seat watching his oldest daughter follow in his foot steps on the basketball court, while his youngest daughter dances hip-hop, tap, and ballet.

He has also taken on a father-figure role with several of the student-athletes he has been fortunate enough to coach. And as someone who counted on his Southern Utah teammates as brothers, he understands the important connection and mentoring opportunities coaching provides.

“Professionally, I am in my 21st year of coaching and enjoy every moment of it,” he says. “But what I am most proud of is when one of my former players calls or texts just to keep in touch and let me know how they are doing.”

Berard credits SUU professors Art Challis (’72) and Dr. Steve Lunt (’57) for helping him diversify his experiences and establish himself as a college basketball coach. He regularly reunites with teammates from his SUU playing days to reminisce about the glory days.

Southern Utah served as the spotlight for his moonwalk (which is still on point) as well as the educational jump start into a successful coaching career.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I remember that Rockin' Robin performance!