NEW COACH

Keith Bernauer speaks to his team following tryouts Wednesday after holding his first practice as the East Carteret coach. (J.J. Smith photo)

BEAUFORT — The East Carteret girls basketball team has a new coach as the calendar turns to November and the season quickly approaches.

The Mariners have tabbed Keith Bernauer to take over for Tod Morgan who officially stepped down Thursday to take the principal job at Jones Senior.

“I’ve been in contact with (boys coach and new athletic director) Daniel Griffee about going out there after Tod decided to step away,” Bernauer said. “We talked a few times, I met with the principal, and she asked me if I would like to be the girls varsity coach. It was kind of a whirlwind week. It happened pretty quick.”

Bernauer went from taking the job last week to holding tryouts Wednesday night.

The West Carteret grad has coached the Morehead City Middle School girls team for the last three years, leading the squad to a 11-1 record and conference championship last year.

He runs the in-school suspension program at MCMS after a 20-year career as an air traffic controller in the Navy.

“I moved back home in 2012 and before long I started substituting, and I loved it,” he said. “I soon got a job at Morehead City Middle School.”

He took about a two-year break from the Navy in 1998-1999 and became friends with Morgan when the two played on back-to-back county championship men’s softball teams.

“I think it’s a great hire,” Morgan said. “I’ve known him a long time, and he loves the game of basketball as much as anybody. He’s a hard-working guy, a loyal guy. We’ve got a younger group coming back, and so I think he is the perfect person to keep growing it. He wants to keep the expectations at a high level.”

Morgan said Bernauer is good at developing young talent, and he’ll have to be after losing four starters from one of the best teams in school history.

The Mariners went to their first-ever east regional final after advancing to the regional semifinal for the first time since 2000. They also captured a 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference Tournament championship and finished the season with a 23-4 record.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Bernauer said. “They did great things last year. I just hope to continue that legacy. I like it that we’re starting over with a younger team.”

A late bloomer – he said he was 140 pounds when he joined the Navy – Bernauer didn’t play at West Carteret but always had the passion to coach. After putting on some weight, he played two years with the All-Navy team and a year with the All-Military team. He also played two years at Craven Community College.

“I understood the game better than my athletic ability,” he said. “I was a real skinny kid, and then I got some weight on me and started playing when I got in the Navy.”

Bernauer said he’s always called on Morgan for coaching advice, and he hopes that continues in the future.

 “We’re pretty close,” he said. “We talk quite a bit. He’s been a mentor to me. I always ask him questions. I’m honored to be able to replace him.”

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