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Darnell Tyler was an important part of the apex of Long Branch boys basketball as a player. As its new head coach, he is taking over a program that is as far from from its peak as it has ever been.

Tyler was approved as Long Branch's new head coach at the Aug. 26 Board of Education meeting and will take over a program that is in a much different place than it was when Tyler was its standout center.

With the 6-foot-9 Tyler in the middle, the Green Wave captured back-to-back NJSIAA Group championships in 1997 (Group II) and 1998 (Group III), as well as the Shore Conference Tournament title in 1997. Tyler went on to play at Manhattan College.

Long Branch has been unable to approach the success of the late 1990's since the turn of the millennium but has fielded competitive teams and boasted standout some individual talent. Last season, however, the Green Wave bottomed out with a 1-21 record, leaving Tyler with a significant rebuilding project on his hands.

Athletic director Jason Corely chose Tyler not only because of his standing in the Long Branch community but because of his willingness to take on that challenge.

"Last year was one of the worst years in the history of Long Branch boys basketball but Darnell has been part of some of the best years the program has ever had," Corley said. "He is an icon in the community and not only do I think he is going to help heal the program but I think he is going to inspire more kids to participate in basketball and play when they get to high school. It has been a while since Long Branch was producing Division I basketball talent and I really believe we can get back to that with Darnell leading the program."

Tyler has coached at the sub-varsity level at Long Branch and has also been heavily-involved in the recreation program in the town as well.

Only two players who logged regular minutes - current seniors Josiah Evans and Mason Alexander - return from last season while senior Morgan Priester and junior Christian Rodriguez saw some varsity action as well. Evans was the team's leading scorer, so Tyler will have a capable offensive player with which to work on day one.

It remains to be seen how the high-school basketball season in New Jersey will work while the COVID-19 virus remains active, but the season is currently on track to start on Dec. 21 and carry into mid-February.