COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge boys basketball has become one of the top high school programs in Missouri.
Under head coach Jim Scanlon, the Bruins have experienced four consecutive district championships, three straight seasons that included a No. 1 state ranking, and a third-place finish in last season’s state tournament. So after seven combined years of coaching in Jim Scanlon’s system, it isn’t surprising that two assistant coaches have found their own head coaching jobs.
Brady Hammond, 22, is Windsor High School’s new coach, and Blair Scanlon, 28 and Jim Scanlon’s son, is Linn High School’s new coach. Both left Rock Bridge during the offseason to begin their own careers as head coaches.
The departure of the assistant coaches, along with the graduation of four seniors from last year’s team, could leave Rock Bridge in a vulnerable position in a season where it expects to compete for a state title again, but Jim Scanlon said both men needed to make the decision that was best for them.
Hammond spent two years as a student assistant coach at Rock Bridge while working on his education degree at MU. Blair Scanlon spent four years with the Bruins coaching the junior varsity team and assisting his father with the varsity squad. Jim Scanlon said he was happy that he had both men on his staff that he was glad coaching at Rock Bridge was a positive experience and hopes it is a strong foundation for a long career for them.
“This (coaching at Rock Bridge) is either going to make you want to coach or walk away from it,” Jim Scanlon said. “I’m proud of them. I think the experience they had here must have been favorable because they both want to continue doing it. It makes me feel good that this program could put two more coaches out there in the state of Missouri, and they’ll both be very successful.”
Rock Bridge senior guard Rick Kreklow said he wasn’t surprised the former assistants earned coaching jobs at other schools after the work they put in at Rock Bridge.
“It just shows how prestigious it (the Rock Bridge boys basketball program) is right now because we can have a couple of assistant coaches go off and now they have head coaching jobs at their own schools,” Kreklow said. “So it really just shows the kind of stuff that is going on here.”
In Hammond’s mind, there was no way he would be a head coach today without the experience he had in Rock Bridge’s system. He got the opportunity because of an email he sent to the head coach.
“I just asked him if Rock Bridge needed a manager or anything,” Hammond said. “He asked me to go out to lunch, so we went to lunch and he talked with me a little bit about basketball, and found out I knew quite a bit, I guess.”
But according to Jim Scanlon, you could know more about basketball than anybody else and still not be able to coach well. He said there was only one reason why Blair Scanlon and Hammond earned their new jobs — commitment.
“They were committed to coaching and committed to basketball,” he said. “They were always here working, and when you’re committed to it (basketball), you have a chance to have some success. These two got it (coaching) in their blood.”
Bruins senior forward Logan Parks said the team will miss the hard work that Hammond and Blair Scanlon put into the Rock Bridge program, but he knows that running their own program was what they needed to do.
“I’m glad they got their head coaching jobs,” Parks said. “We’ll miss them, but they left their mark, and they’ll both go on and do their thing.”
Blair Scanlon said he never saw himself as a head coach until he spent a year on his father’s staff and that as he gained experienced he was allowed to grow as a coach.
“I was Coach Scanlon, and he was Coach Scanlon,” Blair Scanlon said. “Anything that I did, he was very open to letting me put them in, but I learned from the best for five years. I got to see a lot of team strategies and 30 years of basketball experience. He is the true standard of a coach.”
Parks said that Blair Scanlon has a lot of his father in him, mainly in the discipline he shows.
“Blair is his dad’s son, he’s definitely a Scanlon,” Parks said. “He’s got that sternness, and he’ll tell you bluntly, but at the same time he’ll really try to help you out.”
Blair Scanlon has already notched his first career win, leaving him only 574 wins short of his father.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do before I get there,” Blair Scanlon said. “It’s going to be fun during the upcoming years, but he’s still the king. I have a lot of work to do to catch up.”