Former Laurel High basketball coach Keith Coutreyer stays on the coaching staff at Howard University after former head coach Kevin Nickelberry departed for LSU.
Former Laurel High basketball coach Keith Coutreyer stays on the coaching staff at Howard University after former head coach Kevin Nickelberry departed for LSU. (Photo courtesy of Howard University)

Keith Coutreyer, a long-time resident of Laurel Lakes, goes way back with fellow basketball coach Kevin Nickelberry.

They were part of the same college program in Takoma Park and coached together at Hampton and Howard at the Division I level in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.


Now, they are going in different directions. Coutreyer has remained on the men’s coaching staff at Howard University during a transition in head coaches.

Coutreyer was the associate head coach under Nickelberry for the Bison for several years. But after the school parted ways with Nickelberry after last season, athletic director Kery Davis wanted former Laurel High coach Coutreyer to remain on staff when former DeMatha Catholic High and Duke standout Kenny Blakeney took over the head job.

“Coach Blakeney will take over game scheduling, but I will assist him in that capacity and other areas that I am responsible for,” said Coutreyer, sitting in a coffee shop in Laurel last week. “UPS used to have a slogan: What can brown do for you? That is how I approach my job; do those things that need to be done.”

“Kenny was a top candidate,” Coutreyer added. “During the interim I was facilitating the program academically and all of the areas I was responsible for when I was serving in my capacity as associate head coach under Nickelberry. I had a value outside of basketball, so they talked to me about the possibility of staying on.”

In the past, Coutreyer has aided the academic component of the Howard program, among other duties.

Coutreyer became the head coach at Laurel High in 1999 and led the Spartans to the state semifinals in 2008.

He and his wife and two children have lived in Laurel for several years.

He will now be a special assistant to the head coach at Howard.

He has had contact in the past with Blakeney, partially through former Howard assistant Travis Lyons, who like Blakeney, also played at DeMatha.

Nickelberry is now a special assistant at LSU under head coach Will Wade, the former mentor at VCU in Richmond.

Coutreyer will work with three new assistant coaches at Howard, including Eric Atkins, who is from Columbia and played at Mount St. Joseph and at Notre Dame University before playing overseas.

An assistant last year with Howard was Sean Whalen, who grew up in Laurel and played at St. Vincent Pallotti High and at the Division II level in college.

He was not retained by the Bison.

“Sean is a basketball lifer. He will do something with basketball,” Coutreyer said of Whalen, who has coached overseas as well.


Howard has not had a winning season since 2001-02 and has not made the NCAA tournament since 1992.

They will try to do that under Blakeney, an assistant last season at Columbia of the Ivy League.

“I am delighted to welcome Kenny Blakeney as our new men's basketball coach," Howard director of athletics Davis said in a statement. "Kenny comes from a rich basketball pedigree having played for and coached under many of the best coaches in the history of the sport of basketball. Kenny's unique talents on and off the floor, his association with winning programs, and his innovative mind for business make him the right person to lead our program now and into the future."

Coutreyer will also assist the Bison as they prepare for a trip in August to Spain, where they will play against club teams.

The NCAA allows Division I programs to make an overseas trip once every four years if they want.

Coutreyer is preparing for his 10th season at Howard. His undergraduate degree is from what is now Washington Adventist in Takoma Park and he received a master’s degree from Howard in Educational Leadership last year.

“I still get to serve Howard. Leadership is service; I try to do that. I try to serve the young men I have been able to serve,” he said. “I am not only an employee; I am an alum at this point. I am fully invested.”