In the coming days, Bryant knows he has a bigger task. And it has nothing to do whether Leaf and Anigbogu, both UCLA freshmen this past season, have impressed enough to go in the first round of next week’s NBA Draft.
It’s now up to Bryant to get the basketball players at Fountain Valley High to believe they can compete and win in the Sunset League. Bryant hasn’t met the players yet, but he said he’s looking forward to working with the Barons.
Bryant is the new boys’ basketball coach at Fountain Valley. He takes over for Steven Schultz, who lasted three seasons, all of which ended with the Barons finishing in last place in league.
The bottom of league is all Fountain Valley has known the past four seasons, going 1-9 in 2016-17 and 2015-16, and 2-8 in 2014-15 and 2013-14. To change the direction of the program, the Barons quickly turned to Bryant, 40, who will be making his debut as a high school head coach.
Dennis Piramo, the athletic director at Fountain Valley, said the school decided to let Schultz go as the coach at the end of May, feeling “it was time for a change.” The Barons went 36-47 overall with Schultz, making the CIF Southern Section playoffs only once, in 2015-16, when they lost in the Division 1AA first round.
“Out of the pool of [four] candidates that we had, I found that he had a very good resume. He impressed [me] and our principal [Morgan Smith] in an interview [last week],” Piramo said of Bryant, who will be a walk-on coach. “I feel that he is a very dynamic person that can bring a lot of enthusiasm and his skill and knowledge to our program.”
Bryant has enjoyed success in his previous two stops as an assistant high school coach.
He comes from Orange Lutheran, where he spent six seasons as an assistant under coach Chris Nordstrom. Bryant helped the Lancers win a CIF Southern Section Division 1A title in 2011-12.
Before that, Bryant served five seasons as an assistant at Riverside King, coaching a future NBA star in Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard, King won a section crown in Division 1A in 2007-08 and in Division 1AA in 2008-09.
Bryant’s new school has never won a section basketball championship. Fountain Valley hasn’t won much in the sport. The Barons’ last league title came in 2012-13, their first since 1994-95, and they have only won one playoff game in the previous 16 seasons.
Bryant, who has also coached with the Compton Magic, one of the top club teams in the nation, welcomes the challenge at Fountain Valley.
“I look at it as an opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do, which is become a head coach,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t about being a part of a dominant program. It was about coming into a program that I feel like I can make an impact on.”
Bryant isn’t the only member in his family to land a coaching job this week. His younger brother, Travon Bryant, joined the staff with the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant player development coach.
The two brothers played in college, D’Cean as a forward at Long Beach State from 1996-97 to 1999-00, and Travon as a forward at Missouri from 2000-01 to 2003-04. Now they’re coaching on two different coasts.
“We knew we wanted to teach the game. We didn’t know if it was [going to be in] coaching,” said D’Cean, referring to when his and his brother’s playing days ended. “We kind of knew we were going to be doing some skill [and player] development and try to help these kids out. But we never thought that we would be this embedded in coaching. It has been good.”