When Chris Ellis accompanied his daughter, Zoe, to the College of the Florida Keys, he put in some constructive time for himself — applying to be a teacher in Key West schools. Scott Meier and Steve Vinson, who interviewed him, said, come on board. You can teach middle-school language arts at Horace O’Bryant School. With that out of the way, his next step was applying to be the boys’ basketball coach at Key West High School.

“It’s what I do,” he told me as we chatted at HOB recently. “I’m a coach.” 

Dave Perkins at the high school agreed. That was in June. “I believe he offered me the job right then,” said Ellis. “I thought about it over the weekend and accepted the offer.”

Now, he’s teaching. He has met with the prospective players and will soon be picking a team.

Next month, he will be directing the players as they begin their schedule of games. Ellis says his

objective is the same as it always has been through a lengthy career as coach of boys and girls

teams in high school and college in the St. Louis, Missouri area: Win championships. He is no

stranger to wins or to championships. His resume shows 652 victories. It’s obvious he’s

proud of every one.

Ellis was born nearly 60 years ago in Washington, D.C., but moved with his family to the St.

Louis area when he was 3 years old. After being an all-Metro player in high school, averaging

17 points a game, he says, he moved on to nearby Maryville College, where the 6-foot, 5-inch Ellis played for three years. “I didn’t play my senior year,” he recalled. “I was a role player and I was ready to teach and coach.”

That he did, first at Valley Park, outside St. Louis, then at Parkway West and at Webster

Grove. “Parkway South summoned me to coach the girls’ varsity from 1992.”

Successful at all of those stops, he moved to the college ranks — coaching the girls basketball team at his alma mater, which by then was Division II Maryville University, from 2001 through 2016. 

He was named St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year for four consecutive years as his teams went undefeated in league play each of those years. And he added pro coaching to his resume when he led the St. Louis River Queens of the Women’s Basketball Association for a season.

By that time, his son, Drew, was playing high school ball, “so I took a year’s hiatus so I could

watch him play.”

After a year off, he went to coaching (and teaching) in Festus, Missouri before becoming associate women’s head coach at St. Louis Community College. After a year, he thought he was retiring, but got the coaching bug again when he visited Key West.

Once he was hired at HOB (teaching five classes) and appointed head coach, he selected

Letter Parks as his assistant. Ellis says he’s already working 50 hours a week. “It’s what I

came to do,” he said. “I don’t mind putting the time in. I know what it takes to rebuild a

program. I’ll stay as long as it’s working for both of us.”

Conch football evens record before road trips

Key West High evened its football record at 2 wins, 2 losses when it took care of Miami

International Academy, 47-12, on Sept. 24, at The Backyard field. 

Next up is Friday, Oct. 1 at Gateway in Fort Myers, the first of three straight away games.

Key West grad Mekhi Sargent gained two yards the only time he carried the ball in his

Tennessee Titans 25-16 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday, Sept. 26. The first-year player has

now gained four yards in two carries.

Key West High’s volleyball team had won 7, lost 8 after losing 2-0 to Treasure Coast and

defeating Westminster Academy, 3-0, on Sept. 25. On Sept. 21, the Lady

Conchs lost, 3-0, to American Heritage.

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Veteran sports columnist Ralph Morrow says the only sport he doesn’t follow is cricket. That leaves plenty of others to fill his time.