Memphis University School Head Lacrosse Coach Elliott Dent has announced that he is stepping down from that role after 24 years. Mr. Buck Towner, a standout Owls lacrosse player from the Class of 2007, will take the reins of the varsity team as acting head coach for the 2021 season. Mr. Dent will continue to serve as a valued member of the religion faculty and advisor to the lacrosse program.
“I am grateful to Coach Dent for helping build the MUS lacrosse program – and, indeed, lacrosse in the Mid-South,” Headmaster Pete Sanders said. “He is passing the baton to Coach Towner, whom he coached as a player here and mentored as a coach. The program remains in great hands.”
Towner, the school’s director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, was a team captain for the Owls and a two-time all-state selection as a midfielder. While earning a degree in economics at the University of Tennessee, he began his coaching career as a volunteer offensive assistant at Webb School of Knoxville. He has served as an assistant coach at MUS for eight years, focusing on defense and contributing to five state championships. In 2018 he was named Tennessee Scholastic Lacrosse Association Assistant Coach of the Year. He is also known for his development of the sport in Memphis through the Buzzards program for grades 1-6. Many Owl players have known him as a coach since they were 6 years old.
Towner holds his former coach and mentor in high regard. “Elliott Dent’s impact on my life and the lives of many other MUS lacrosse players has been incredible. His mission has always been consistent with that of MUS. Preaching character and encouraging a team-first mentality, Coach Dent taught life lessons on the lacrosse field and in the classroom.”
Dent says the opportunity to teach and coach attracted him to the school. “Connecting the classroom and the field for my student-athletes has been my calling. Lacrosse at MUS is not just a team; it is a community, and I am grateful to be part of it. I truly look forward to supporting Coach Towner and [Assistant Coach Chris] Colbeck as they continue the excellence that is MUS lacrosse,” Dent said.
“I have immensely enjoyed my 24 years as head coach. I thank all the past and present student-athletes, coaches, parents, and the entire MUS lacrosse community for making the program what it is today. Most important, I thank my wife and children for their sacrifices in allowing me to serve.”
Arriving from Hampden-Sydney College in 1996, Dent turned a fledgling varsity sport into a competitive interscholastic program. He quickly began compiling a remarkable 293-78 record with 13 state championships, and he coached 34 All-Americans. In addition, he played a major role in the development of the primarily East Coast sport in Tennessee.
Dent was named The Commercial Appeal’s Lacrosse Coach of the Year eight times. He was TSLA Coach of the Year in 1999 and served as president of the TSLA from 1999-2004. In 2002 he was the coach for the West All-Star Team in the United States Lacrosse High School All-Star Games, and in 2019 he was assistant coach for the Under Armour All-America Highlight Division South Team. Under his leadership the MUS summer lacrosse camp has introduced many boys to the game.
In discussing his vision for MUS lacrosse, Towner spoke of continuing the mission of the school and the program: “Developing young men of strong moral character is what we are here to do. Lacrosse is a game that rewards hard work. MUS, at its core, does an amazing job of helping young men balance hard work and fun.”
English Instructor Chris Colbeck will continue to work with the team, and Towner will move quickly to round out the rest of the coaching staff. A Maryland native, Colbeck was captain of the lacrosse team at Division-I Loyola University in Baltimore, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. While there he received an Eastern College Athletic Conference Medal of Merit and All-American honors. He was elected to the Loyola University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
Colbeck began a lacrosse coaching career at Princeton, then coached at Loyola and Hofstra, before spending five years as an assistant and offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia. While he was at Virginia, the Cavaliers earned three ACC championships and won a national championship. Colbeck was selected to receive the Gallagher Award as assistant coach of the year. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Mississippi followed by a master’s degree in Southern studies, and he joined the MUS English faculty in 2017.
“We have an amazing opportunity to send these lacrosse players to great universities, as we have for many years,” Towner said. “Coach Colbeck is a big part of that. He probably has the best lacrosse coaching resume of any high school coach in the country. First and foremost, Chris is a great teacher. He teaches five classes including Southern Literature, American Literature, and Music Appreciation. We are blessed to have such a talented and versatile person as a part of the MUS family.”
Towner joined the Admissions team in 2014 and four years later became director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, posting steady increases in enrollment to the point that the school now has waiting lists for several grades. Throughout his career, he has never been far from the lacrosse field, and he said he looks forward to serving as acting head coach: “I am excited to have the opportunity to continue the proud traditions of MUS lacrosse and to grow the lacrosse family here.”