LATTA — After eight years and a lot of success, Matt Bryant is leaving the Latta boys basketball program.
Bryant was along for the ride as an assistant coach to Donnie Husband when the Panthers won back-to-back Class 2A state championships in 2013 and 2014. Bryant spent the past four years as the head coach at Latta, won a state title he could call his own in 2017 and guided the Panthers to a state runner-up finish last season.
Bryant has compiled an impressive 101-26 record during his stint at the helm of the Panthers’ squad.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the eight years I’ve been here. It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
In an odd twist of fate, Bryant will be reunited with Husband and become his assistant again, this time at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, Arkansas. Husband was named the new head coach of the Bulldogs last March.
Bryant has stayed in touch with Husband since he left Latta four years ago. He said he looks forward to working with Husband again and competing with him during practices.
“After being coach Husband’s assistant for a couple of years, every day I came to practice I tried to make him mad. I tried to take the guys he gave me and tried to beat his guys. I always felt like we did our job if he was mad at his guys and making them run. I’m kind of excited to do that again,” he said.
Bryant was quick to point out that he wasn’t really planning to move. He loved his job at Latta. But the state of education in Oklahoma — the Sooner State is near the bottom of the list when it comes to teachers’ salaries — forced his hand.
“It didn’t really have anything to do with basketball. It’s just a family thing,” Bryant said.
Bryant and his wife, Kara, have two kids — Sadie (5) and Kasen (3)-and another one on the way in October. Financially, the move to Arkansas will allow Kara to continue to be a stay-at-home mother.
“The way Oklahoma education is money-wise, it’s not feasible to do that anymore on just my salary. Taking this job is going to allow my wife to stay home with our kids,” Bryant said. “There are a lot of Oklahoma teachers in this position. I’m another Oklahoma casualty that has to go out of state to teach.”
When researching the Greenwood job, Bryant was surprised that he would make enough money to achieve his family goal as an assistant coach.
“It’s a considerable raise to step down as a head coach and become an assistant coach. And not only that, I’m only going to do one more thing. I’ll help with high school or junior high track,” he said. “Here at Latta, I had about six different stipends from everything I did, and it’s not even close money-wise.”
Bryant said he’ll always cherish his time at Latta.
“I had a lot of great times here. I’ve always felt very blessed for Latta to be my first head coaching job,” he said. “It’s really bittersweet leaving. We’re really excited about this new opportunity, but at the same time there are so many people that work here that I’m going to miss that helped me grow as a person and a teacher.”