West Ranch High School hired Jeff Bryant as the new varsity boys basketball head coach on Tuesday afternoon.
“I was confident from day one that I would land the job,” Bryant said. “I’m excited that it’s finally official and I’m ready to get going.”
Bryant spent a few years as the Wildcats’ junior varsity coach and filled in during the 2019-20 season as the interim head coach for the varsity team after Ron Manalastas stepped down from the position in mid-December.
“We had some really good qualified candidates and it was a tough decision,” said Dody Garcia, Athletic Director at West Ranch. “We just felt like Jeff was a good fit for us. The familiarity with the program has to be there. His knowledge of basketball, his demeanor and relationship with the boys. He just has a good court presence and keeping the positivity with the players.”
Bryant’s relationship with all the players has been solid for years due to his junior varsity experience. It made his transition from the junior varsity squad to the interim varsity coach relatively seamless.
“They accepted me as their leader when I took over,” Bryant said. “I coached most of these kids on the JV team a few years back.”
Since taking over the varsity program, Bryant has stayed over .500. He has an overall record of 8-7. He split the Foothill League in his first season with a 5-5 record, including a 2-0 start and recorded his first sweep against Golden Valley. He split all other series 1-1, except for Valencia.
Numbers don’t lie and the numbers say Bryant can hang with the rest of the Foothill League, especially the big dogs. He picked up signature wins against Saugus in a 75-69 contest on Jan. 7 and against Hart in an 86-74 victory on Feb. 4 just after the Indians had stunned league leaders, Valencia.
“I’m excited to see what he brings to the program,” Garcia said. “I think he’s a man with integrity and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Now that the program is completely his, Bryant has a vision in mind for the team.
“This last season I got thrown in the fire and it wasn’t my style of basketball,” he said. “I’m going to get back to my style of basketball. The boys are used to it because they played that way as freshman and sophomores.”
Returning to his brand of basketball isn’t like just flipping a switch. He will have to prepare his team and implement some new philosophies. He has two things he wants to focus on leading into the next season.
“One of my top priorities is going to be strength and conditioning,” Bryant said. “Second, we’re going to strengthen our schedule starting now. I think we need to play tougher opponents to prepare for league.”
The Jeff Bryant brand of basketball includes an aggressive style of play. He wants his players to trap and press on defense. With play like that, a team can use physicality and athleticism – a result of strength and conditioning workouts – to limit an opponent’s good looks on the basket.
“I think the mindset is going to be different with me starting since day one,” Bryant said. “I think I’m going to bring a different kind of vibe to the Santa Clarita Valley.”
Off the court, Bryant has his eyes elsewhere. He wants to create a sense of pride and competitiveness at West Ranch, and that starts with the kids. He wants to find a way to have the local talent filter into West Ranch instead of its rivals.
“One of the priorities is not to let the local talent get away,” he said in a text message. “If you’re a kid in our area that was thinking about going elsewhere, now I think you have to really consider West Ranch.”
Bryant will get his chance to continue coaching as the official head coach as offseason workouts and the spring ball both begin soon. By the time fall comes around, he plans to take the entire state of California on a wild ride.
“I’m excited to get a full offseason under my belt,” he said. “Buckle your seatbelts because the Jeff Bryant era has begun. I’m going to build a winning culture. We’re going to be playing hard and extremely fast.”
Mirroring the hire of Bryant as the full-time boys basketball coach, girls basketball coach, Shawn Zeringue, retired on Monday. The West Ranch Athletic Department began the search for a new coach Tuesday morning.
The administration hopes to move through the search process quickly which summer camps just around the corner.
“If we have as good a response as we did with the boys, hopefully, we have a lot of qualified applicants and set up the interview process and go from there in a timely manner,” Garcia said.