BIG HORN — The Big Horn and Tongue River High School basketball teams will have new head coaches roaming the sidelines this season.
Despite the significant changes, though, none of the four coaches are unfamiliar faces in the area. Two of this year’s head coaches led local teams last season and two of them were assistants.
Tyler Hanson will lead the Tongue River boys team after coaching the TR girls the last two seasons. Ryan Alley replaced Hanson as head coach for the Lady Eagles after 10 years as the Big Horn boys coach. Mike Daley will lead the Rams in place of Alley; Daley was a Big Horn girls assistant coach for the past three seasons and has previous head coaching experience for both the Rams and Lady Rams. Kip Butler is the new Big Horn girls head coach after serving as BH boys assistant coach for the past two years.
All four teams start their seasons this weekend with nonconference play. The Rams and Lady Rams begin with tournaments in Glenrock, while both Tongue River teams commence their seasons at tournaments in Upton.
In their new roles, the coaches are either trying to build successful programs or keep things going in the right direction. None of the four teams qualified for the state tournament last season — although the Rams and Lady Rams were both one game away from doing so — so they all have plenty of room for improvement.
With new leaders taking over, most of the teams’ early practices have focused on implementing the coaches’ different strategic philosophies.
“It’s a little bit hard when you have a different system,” Daley said. “…There are some growing pains there, but we’re getting there.”
The coaches have also provided each other with pointers early on. Alley has talked with Daley about scouting girls basketball and Alley said Hanson has helped him out with what to expect at the girls level as well.
“I’ve watched a lot of girls basketball, but most of the time I watched part of it then got prepped for our boys game, so that’s going to be a new thing,” Alley said.
Likewise, Hanson said he has talked with Alley and Daley a little bit so far and said they’ll probably have more specific conversations as the season continues.
Alley and Butler coached with each other the previous two years, but their relationship goes back much longer than that.
“We played third-grade basketball together,” Butler said. “We’ve been close all the way through college.”
The two friends graduated the same year from Tongue River High School and both attended the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. After coaching together for two years, Alley and Butler will coach against each other twice this season, which Alley said will lead to friendly competition.
“We’ve had some good banter back and forth,” Alley said. “We still bounce some things off each other. He knows what I’m going to do and, of course, I don’t know exactly what he’s going to do … but I have an idea.”
While the other three men have prior experience at the helm, this year marks Butler’s first as a high school head coach. Butler said he learned a lot from Alley in the previous two years and said they have similar coaching mindsets.
“We collaborated a lot the last two years and pretty much all our lives and played together through high school, so we kind of think the same on a lot of things,” Butler said.
Butler said he has also talked regularly with Daley about various coaching tips.
“He’s been a good mentor as well with (me) making the decision to take this head job,” Butler said.
Similarly, Daley said he is excited to see what Butler does in his new role.
“He’s got a great basketball mind,” Daley said. “Certainly my door’s been open, his door’s been open. We’ve had some good conversations, so I think it’s going to be a good, cohesive coaching group that can bounce some things off each other and attack the year that way.”
Under new leadership, all four programs will embark on their season-long journeys this week.