Hazard High School’s Lady Bulldogs will take on a different look next season as new head coach Harold Brashear hopes to build on a program with two state titles already on its résumé.
Brashear, who was hired last month and will become Hazard’s fourth girls’ coach in as many years, will have an experienced team on his side as he looks to take the Lady Bulldogs to the 14th Region tournament for the first time since 2005. Hazard will return the vast majority of its players from the 2012-13 season, which ended with a record of 15-14 after a loss to Leslie County in the opening round of the district.
In particular, the coach will be looking for his six incoming seniors to step up.
“These girls are a little disadvantaged,” Brashear said. “I’m the fourth coach they’ve had in four years, but we’re putting that behind us and we’re going to try to institute a new system, and what I want to do is start from the ground up. I’m not here to build a program, I think we already have a program in place and I want to win now.”
A former assistant under Hazard boys’ coach Al Holland, Brashear said those familiar with Holland’s style of play will likely see something similar when his team takes the court. After spending the past six seasons on Holland’s bench, it’s a system with which he is familiar and one that lends itself to a successful program.
“He’s won nine regional championships, so his record speaks for itself,” Brashear said of Holland. “I’ll do things very similar to what he does. He’s who I learned under and it’s the system I know and am comfortable with. We’re going to look to push the ball a lot, have a more fun style of basketball, and have a lot of defensive pressure.”
Another component of a successful program will be teams with a good grasp on fundamentals. Brashear said he would like to see girls participating in travel teams in elementary school like many of the boys do. Being able to teach players at a younger age will lead to a more successful program once they reach high school.
“The younger these girls start, they’re playing together, they’re a lot more cohesive,” he noted.
Brashear has set two main goals for his first season, though he noted there will be no expectations coming in. He wants Hazard to return to the 14th region tournament, which means his Bulldogs will enter the district having to defeat either Leslie County, a team he said he’ll pick as his preseason favorite, or the 54th District’s perennial power in Perry Central. Hazard hasn’t beaten either team since a January 2009 win over Leslie County during the regular season, and hasn’t scored a win over Perry Central since February 1998.
Brashear’s second goal of winning the 14th Region All “A” tournament is just as lofty. Again, Hazard would likely have to defeat Leslie County, while they’ll open the tournament with a tough Jenkins team.
Brashear was named the new coach at Hazard on May 14, and while some of his players are participating in summer ball and will play in the AAU circuit and at the upcoming camp at Transylvania University, he said he’s going to use this summer break as an opportunity to meet with his players and get a good idea of their abilities on the court. And their performance off the court and in the classroom will also play a factor, as he noted he will stress the importance of academics to his players.
“You’re only as good as the players you have and as hard as they want to work,” he said. “Your job as coach, in my opinion, is really to put those girls in a position where they can be the most successful. That’s what it’s all about.”