Inside Austin Peay Basketball
Former Govs basketball coach Lake Kelly dies
Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information
Release: 03/05/2009
Courtesy: APSU Sports Information

Lake Kelly, the former Austin Peay State University basketball coach who led the Governors to three NCAA tournament appearances in two Governors coaching stints, died Thursday morning. He was age 75.

Kelly experienced complications following kidney stones surgery, Monday, at a Flemingsburg (Ky.) hospital. 

Kelly recently retired from high school administration work in Kentucky. He returned to prep coaching, teaching and administration after leaving Austin Peay as head basketball coach in 1990. He ended his coaching career at Fleming County, in his hometown of Flemingsburg. He led the Panthers to Sweet Sixteen appearances in 1998 and '99.

Kelly was best known for his authoring Peaymania and the sequel, Peaymania II, as Austin Peay’s head basketball coach.  In fact, he was in Clarksville during early February to help celebrate the 1972-73 and 1973-74 teams successes, along with the jersey retirement of James “Fly” Williams.

Kelly was an assistant coach on the Austin Peay coaching staff in 1970 and was elevated to head coach in 1971-72, replacing George Fisher, who had retired. After a 10-14 first season, the Govs “rags-to-riches” story produced a 22-7 record in 1972-73, a team paced by the redoubtable James “Fly” Williams, recruited from the streets of Brooklyn, and Howard Jackson. The duo helped ignite Peaymania. The Govs won the Ohio Valley Conference for the first time and made their initial venture in the NCAA tournament, defeating Jacksonville, 77-75, before losing to powerful Kentucky, 106-100, in an overtime decision.

Kelly’s Govs post a 17-10 record the following season and advanced to their second NCAA tournament, losing to Notre Dame. The Govs again were 17-10 in 1974-74 followed by a 20-7 mark the next season. Kelly’s first tenure ended with a school record 24-4 mark in 1976-77.

In total, APSU won three regular-season titles (1972-73, 1973-74, 1976-77) and finished second during Kelly’s initial tenure. He was named OVC “Coach of the Year” in 1973.

Kelly left Austin Peay to become Oral Roberts head man in 1977-78, where he served two seasons as head coach, including a 17-10 mark in 1978-79. He left ORU to spend four seasons as head coach George Rogers High School in Winchester, Ky.

In 1983, Kelly returned to college coaching as an assistant to Joe B. Hall at Kentucky before Kelly returned for Peaymania II—Austin Peay hired Kelly, March 27, 1985, to return as head basketball coach in 1985-86.

After an initial 14-14 season in Kelly’s second tenure, he led the Governors to a 20-12 record in 1986-87, including the 1987 OVC tournament championship, a contest won at the buzzer, 71-68, on a three-point shot.

The 1987 excitement did not end there. The Governors would draw nationally ranked Illinois in first-round NCAA tourney play in Birmingham. Considered one of the darkhorses to win the national title that season, the Illini were stunned by the Governors, 68-67. APSU then would lose in overtime, 90-87, to Rick Pitino’s Providence during the next round. Providence then advanced to the NCAA tourney Final Four.

Kelly would lead the Governors to the OVC tourney title game in each of the next two seasons as APSU posted 17-13 and 18-12 records, respectively, before he resigned after the 1989-90 season after an 10-19 season.

The Kentucky native was a 1956 Georgia Tech graduate. He began his coaching career in 1959 as the head man at Amelia (Ohio) High School. In 1960, he joined Morehead State’s staff as a graduate assistant. The next year found Kelly in the Army, but he found time to coach Fort Chaffee, Ark., to a 24-4 mark during his stay.

In 1962-63, he returned to Morehead State as a full-time assistant then moved to Florida State and Loyola for single seasons as assistants before returning to Morehead State from 1965-68.

He returned to prep coach in 1969 at Lexington (Ky.) High School before coming to Austin Peay the following season as Fisher’s top assistant.

He is survived by his wife, Marti, sons Lake Jr. and Brian, and daughter Jane (Rob) Tenyer.

Visitation will begin at 4 p.m., Saturday at Fleming County High School, in Flemingsburg. Visitation also will be begin at 1 p.m., Sunday, at Fleming County High School with funeral service set to begin at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family has expressed donations be sent to the Flemingsburg Presbyterian Church.


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