SHERIDAN — Sheridan College’s Dontae Bryant earned some bragging rights. The assistant coach stepped in as interim head coach this past week and did something head coach Matt Hammer has never done.
Bryant logged a win at Western Wyoming Community College — a place where Hammer holds an 0-4 record — as Hammer remained in Sheridan with his wife Mallory Hammer who was expecting a child, and had the child, Maxwell, Monday morning.
Bryant learned that he’d coach the game in Rock Springs following the Generals’ contest against Eastern Wyoming College Jan. 30. Hammer didn’t want to make the 371-mile trek to Western Wyoming in the event that his wife went into labor during the road trip.
In previous road games in Cheyenne and Riverton, Hammer drove separately, and not on the team bus, in case he needed to drive back to Sheridan for the birth of his child.
So Bryant had a couple days to prepare himself for his new temporary role as head coach. When game day rolled around, Bryant talked with Hammer over the phone prior to tipoff about the scout, the team and everything that goes into running the squad.
“[Hammer] was just telling me, ‘I can do it, and it’s not a big deal, and just get it done,’” Bryant said.
“At the end of the day, there can’t be any drop-offs, and he was just giving me that reassurance that he wouldn’t of put me in the position if he didn’t think I could do the job.”
Bryant called Hammer at halftime and the two discussed things that worked and things that didn’t and what they should try in the second 20 minutes. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Bryant saw the game from a different lens. He believes that experience will help him in his coaching career.
“I can see the game from a different light now,” Bryant said. “When you’re the assistant coach, you’re looking at everything that the coach really isn’t looking at. But now having been the head coach, I see the game a little better now. I see it more in-depth now.”
Bryant gives a lot of credit to volunteer assistant coach Cody Ball for helping him in Rock Springs. Ball let Bryant know when a player committed his second foul or when someone looked fatigued or when someone missed an assignment.
Having a team filled with sophomores (10) also helped Bryant. Players such as Josh Bagely, AJ Bramah and Cam Reece had all traveled to Western Wyoming as freshman and suffered a tough road loss.
Those three took charge and focused the team. They told them about the difficulties with playing in Rock Springs and not wanting to take a seven-hour bus trip home after a loss.
“That’s a hard place to play,” Bagley said. “We knew we had to keep our composure and keep everyone together on the court and make sure everyone was doing the right thing.”
Following the game, Bagley organized a celebration for Bryant. He told his teammates to gather cups and bottles of water to douse Bryant upon entering the locker room.
“It was real exciting,” Bryant said. “It shows that my hard work doesn’t go unappreciated at the end of the day. It was a really good feeling, and they enjoyed it just as much as I enjoyed it.”
Bryant logged his second win as a head coach Monday night against the Wyoming All-Stars. He’ll return to his assistant coach’s seat alongside Hammer Wednesday when the No. 8 Generals host Northwest College at 7:30 p.m.
SC boasts a 23-1 overall record and an 8-0 mark in Region IX play.