Mar 6, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorFormer St. Stephen's boys basketball coach Brady Slack couldn't believe it on Monday when he found out he was named the Class 1-A Northwest Coach of the Year.
The first-year coach stepped down during the regular season on Monday, Feb. 6, because of "safety issues" apparently connected to a stricter code of conduct he put in place for the team.
The Eagles were 2-3 in the conference at the time of the coaching change and 6-13 overall. Several players reportedly had been dismissed or suspended from the team.
"It's shocking," Slack said Tuesday morning. "There are so many good coaches out there in our conference. You look at what the coach from Ten Sleep did and what the Burlington coach did."
SSHS interim coach Ricky Blackburn first told Slack of the award on Monday.
Blackburn said the vote for Slack was unanimous from the other coaches around the league. Burlington, Ten Sleep, Meeteetse and Dubois round out the league.
"It shows what type of coach he was to make an impact on such a short time that he had," Blackburn said.
Slack put in new rules of conduct for the regular season. The Eagles were down to seven players after Slack's last regular season game with Little Snake River, but most of the suspended players apparently were reinstated after his departure.
Slack continues to teach as St. Stephen's.
"It was challenging," said Slack, who played basketball and football at Riverton High School and was a standout baseball player. "It had its up and downs. There were more downs than up, but in the end we were able to accomplish a lot of things that I went in wanting to accomplish.
"There was a lot of good that went on with the kids. I think that the kids were very respectable at some games. We even had comments from refs on how well the kids had behaved during the game."
With a full team back on the bench, St. Stephen's placed fourth at the Class 1-A West regional tournament in Lander, and third on Saturday at state tournament.
"I was happy to see coach Blackburn take them and achieve what they did," Slack said. "That is a great job on his part and a great job on the kids' part."
The Eagles downed Ten Sleep 56-43 in the third-place game in Casper on Saturday.
"We felt that Brady was being consistent and fair," Burlington coach Matthew Davidson said. "He was trying to install discipline and good fundamental basketball."
Davidson said he could tell Slack has a passion for coaching.
"My interaction with him has been short," Davidson said. "He was not only interested in basketball but in helping the young men to develop character to do better. Brady established guidelines and rules and stuck to them."
At the state tournament, Little Snake River knocked off Burlington for the 1-A title 70-59.
Slack had been hired to become manager of the Riverton Raiders American Legion baseball team for the upcoming season, but he has stepped down from the position.
"I gave up the baseball job because I talked to some college coaches, and they said if I want to make it in the college world that I need to go out and help in basketball camps," Slack said. "I want to do basketball stuff year round."
Blackburn has confidence Slack will continue to grow as a coach in the basketball world.
"Brady will get better as he gets the experience," Blackburn said. "In my book, he is ready to coach anywhere. He will be successful as a head coach in high school or if he gets into the college ranks."
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