As you have probably heard, in life the only sure things are death and taxes.
No one has ever beaten Uncle Sam or Father Time.
There is one event coming into this basketball season that in Las Vegas would be called a lock. It seemed everyone knew that sometime in the 2016-17 girls’ basketball season, Van Alstyne head coach Tim Bryant would earn his 500th win.
And that’s just what he did. Win No. 500 for the coach was recorded on Nov. 21 against Anna.
Bryant, beginning his seventh season leading the Lady Panthers, began the season with 494 court wins and it’s probably another safe bet that no other coach has gone through as much as Bryant in achieving that mark.
In 1984, just starting his student teaching days while a senior at Mississippi State University, a teachers’ strike prevented him from completion of that requirement.
One week into his first coaching job as a young assistant at Pass Christian High School in Mississippi, hurricane Elena roared through the Gulf Coast wiping out the first month of that season.
“It was quite a start to my teaching career,” Bryant said.
Bryant’s first head coaching job came in 1989 at Pass Christian High School.
In 1991 Bryant, following the bombing of Iraq, joined the Air Force and spent one year training as a flight medic. He spent more than 20 years with the Mississippi Air National Guard.
Bryant returned to coaching in 1992 at a private school in Mississippi, Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Point Gibson, where he coached boys’ basketball.
That venture didn’t go well for Bryant as the school was forced to close due to financial problems, putting him into the job-search mode.
He landed on his feet at a small school in Gloster, Mississippi, Pine Hill School, and he coached there for two years.
“It was a small school and when you didn’t show up at the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes on Wednesday night you were in trouble,” Bryant said. “The area was economically depressed, one kid told me, ‘Why do I need to study world history, I’m gonna end up driving a truck for the lumber mill?’”
With a young family, coaching in a small school in Mississippi was not the most lucrative profession around and Bryant attended a job fair in Starkville, Mississippi where he connected with administrators from Ocean Springs High School. That led to a job where he spent 14 years coaching girls’ basketball.
“We had two teams that reached the regional finals at Ocean Springs and I was fortunate to have some really good players on those teams at Ocean Springs,” Bryant said.
After years of coaching multiple sports, both with boys and girls, Bryant settled into girls’ basketball coaching with the Lady Greyhounds, where in 2009 he won his 400th game.
“Coaching girls basketball is very different than working with the boys’ teams,” Bryant said. “Girls will follow your instructions better, but they are more emotional and you have to be more careful about criticisms.”
Bryant talked about the differences in coaching in Mississippi and Texas and the biggest would be the year-round access to players.
“I had my team for an hour and a half every day during the school year and in the summer we went to camps all over the state,” Bryant said.
Schools were allowed to use district transportation to events out of season and coaches were allowed to coach in off-season tournaments.
The University Interscholastic League in Texas has some very strict limits on these activities.
Bryant’s classroom is decorated with pictures of teams from almost all of his coaching stops and he has his favorites as you would expect.
“Two girls from my last teams at Ocean Springs, Breanna Edwards and Cicily Wallace, were outstanding players and Wallace was an assistant for me at Ocean Springs,” Bryant said. “Sierra Motley, here at Van Alstyne, was the most athletic player I have had. … She could play inside, shoot the three and rebound and play defense.”
Bryant credits his high school coach, Don Walker from Jackson, Mississippi, as his inspiration for wanting to get into coaching.
“He took us to camps all over Mississippi and Alabama, he really had a love for coaching and I learned a lot from him,” Bryant said.
With his military background Bryant wanted to encourage his students to be aware of the services’ role in our history.
“I had read about other schools doing things connected to military history and I wanted to do that here at Van Alstyne,” Bryant said. “The Military History Cub gets together to study the history through field trips and participation in events associated with the military, and it’s rewarding to us all.”
Thirty one years in the coaching business, and with win No. 500 under his belt, Bryant said this is a significant professional milestone.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach this long, and I’ve had some really good kids over the years,” Bryant said.
We think he did more than air up the balls and drive the bus.