It’s no coincidence that Chris Coates’ arrival at Keene State College coincided with the resurgence of an Owl men’s basketball program that was making the transition to Division III and the Little East Conference. "I think those two things mirrored themselves," said KSC Coach Rob Colbert. "He got the ball rolling, putting us in position to be successful and gain recognition."
The 11th men’s basketball player to be inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame, Coates epitomized where dedication and perseverance can take you on the court. The multiple honors, including All-American and LEC Player of the Year recognition didn’t materialize out of thin air. They were earned the hard way – with hard work. "Chris was one of the fiercest competitors that I’ve had the fortune to coach," said Colbert. "His development in large part can be attributed to his work ethic. He was always doing things to make himself a better player."
His work ethic was apparent throughout his basketball career. Whether it was shooting baskets in his yard to make his ninth grade team, developing his three-point shot after his freshman season at Keene State, or working on his ball-handling skills as a professional playing in Europe, Coates knew hard work was his ticket to success in the game.
Named Mr. New Hampshire Basketball and selected as an All-American on a Winnacunnet High School team that reached the state finals his last three seasons, the Hampton, N.H., native made an immediate impact when he stepped on the Spaulding Gym court. "They told me if I worked hard, I would play a lot of minutes and have a chance to start," said Coates, who joined a KSC team with several older transfer players. "Once I learned the rules of the road, things began to mesh."
Coates led the Owls into uncharted territory. During his tenure, Keene State made two appearances in the LEC tournament finals and earned three ECAC berths. One of his few disappointments was not winning an LEC championship and going to the NCAA tournament. "It was tough," he said. "We came so close."
Coates, who averaged 19.3 points and 7.8 rebounds, wrapped up his KSC career by being named the LEC and ECAC Player of the Year and becoming the program’s first All-American. He is second in scoring (1,970 points) and fifth in rebounds (795) in Keene State’s all-time career lists.
"Keene State made me the basketball player and the person I am today," said Coates. "I’m very proud of what the team accomplished and getting my degree. My end goal was always to play after college, and I worked as hard as I possibly could to do that."
Coates did fulfill his dream to play after college, taking his basketball talents overseas and playing professionally in several countries including Australia, France, and Norway. Returning home, Coates currently runs a highly successful basketball clinic and camp. "I enjoy developing a player’s talent and character," he said. "There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping someone who’s been cut from a team come back the following year and make that team."