By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
West End High School is a special place to Clint Brannon, and he hopes to enjoy a long tenure as varsity boys basketball coach for his alma mater.
Brannon, a 2001 West End graduate, has moved up from the junior varsity coaching ranks to take over the Patriots’ varsity program.
He succeeds Keith Thr ash er, who retired from teaching and coaching at the conclusion of the 2011-12 school year.
“I just finished my sixth year on the faculty,” Brannon said. “I came straight out of Jacksonville (State) and was lucky enough to get a job back home.”
He spent all six years as West End’s JV boys coach, working first under Phillip James and then Thrasher. He teaches seventh- and eighth-grade history.
“The last time we had a coaching change (two years ago), I didn’t really feel like the timing was right for me personally, but this time it felt like the right thing to do, and I was excited for the chance,” Brannon said.
Brannon’s first team will feature 12 players, most of whom he coached on the JV level.
“At least half (play football),” he said.
The majority of male student-athletes at West End play two sports while some play all three — basketball, baseball and football.
Caleb Mayo, Levi Weems and Chase Blanton are among the returning players.
“We lost four seniors from last year’s team, but we didn’t lose a lot of points or minutes, really,” Brannon said. “The majority of our nucleus is going to return.
“We should have eight seniors this year, so we have a good bit of experience.”
The Patriots aren’t participating in any play dates this summer.
“We are doing a lot of development in the gym, just working here,” Brannon said. “We looked at playing a couple of things, but things didn’t work out.”
The ex-Patriot player installed his offensive and defensive schemes this summer.
“I’m hoping they do pretty well football-wise, and we’re looking at before our first game maybe a week (of practice) before we play,” he said. “I don’t want that week (spent) learning my terminology, learning my drills, learning the things I want to do. I want them to already know it and when we step in after football, we’re just getting game ready.”
Brannon’s goal is to put a team on the court that will excel at playing pressure defense and up-tempo on offense.
“I want to be up in your face defensively, pressure you,” he said. “Instead of you dictating what you want to do on offense, you have to take what we’re going to allow you to take, and then really push the ball down the floor and create more opportunities for ourselves. That’s really what I hope to do.
“Hopefully we’ll be known as very good defensively, and after you’ve played us, you know you’re going to have to work to be able to do that.”
The Patriots will face stiff competition in their area during the 2012-14 reclassification period. Their opponents in Class 2A, Area 13 will be Westbrook Christian, Gaston and Sand Rock.
“Sand Rock’s been to three Final Fours (2009, 2010, 2011), Westbrook had a really good team last year and Gaston was 1A but they still went to the regional,” Brannon said. “We’re in a tough area to be able to do what we want to do.
“I don’t really set goals like we need to win ‘X’ number of games, we need to get here, get there to be a successful season.
“We just want to be as good as we can be, because we can’t control all those other things. We just want to worry about what we can control. That’s the way we’re going to look at it.”
Seth Ward, who coached the Patriots’ junior high boys teams last year, is moving up to succeed Brannon as JV coach.