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June 23, 2014

Latta names assistant Matt Bryant as new head boys basketball coach

Latta —    After interviewing a few high-profile candidates during a search to replace Donnie Husband as the boys basketball coach, Latta officials finally decided their best option had been right in front of their noses the whole time.

   Matt Bryant, who spent the past four years as an assistant to Husband, was named his successor last week. But Bryant has been with his team since Husband announced he was taking a similar position at Merritt High School.

   “He stepped up and had been with them all summer. He said he'd take them no matter what happened with the job,” said Latta athletic director Terry Painter.

   There’s no doubt Bryant will have a hard act to follow. Husband left Latta after leading the Panthers to back-to-back Class 2A state titles.

  “I’m very fortunate. I’m extremely blessed to have this opportunity. Not many first-year coaches get to take over a team that has won back-to-back state championships,” Bryant said.

   Spending all that time in Husband’s system should make the transition an easy one.

   “Coach Husband was — if not the best — one of the best coaches in Oklahoma. I definitely have big shoes to fill. I’m excited about it,” Bryant said. “I think one advantage I have ... is that I’ve been in the system for four years. There won’t be any major changes. I’ll add a few things here or there ... but for the most part I want to keep the program going like it’s going. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from coach Husband.”

   Painter and the Latta administration also think Bryant is a good fit for the boys basketball program.

   “We're proud to have him. He's done a great job. He's a good young coach. We're lucky to have him,” Painter said. “He's had chances to go other places, but he likes it here. He knows expectations here at Latta, and I think he can handle that and do a great job.”

   With a pair of state championships under their belts and a good nucleus coming back (led by 2013-14 Class 2A Player of the Year Treston Tully), there’s really only one goal for the Panthers — competing for another gold ball.

   “I think you should always have high expectations, no matter what. High expectations should only push you to work as hard as you can,” Bryant said. “I know what our kids want to do. We want to go back to state. That’s a pretty lofty goal, especially after the team won it back to back. We’re going to have a huge target on our back.”

   Bryant and the Panthers have already participated in team camps at Byng and Kingston, and he’ll take some of his players to the Gym Rat Individual Basketball Camp in Anadarko this week. He’s liked what he’s seen from his squad so far during summer workouts.

   “It’s been going pretty well. We’re slotting in three new starters, so we’re still trying to learn to play together. We’ve definitely looked pretty good at times, and at times we look like we need to improve some,” he said. “We have real good kids coming back, and they know how to work hard.”

   Bryant graduated from Konawa High School in 2002 and got a degree from East Central University in 2010. He’s spend that last three years as the head boys golf coach and the coach for the boys and girls cross country teams at Latta.

 

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