INDEPENDENCE — Brad Smith, who served for 25 years as the Labette County Grizzles boys basketball coach, will take the same role with the Independence Bulldogs after spending a year away from teaching and coaching.
The USD 446 board approved the hire on Monday night.
Smith will take over for Marcus Lanning at Independence. Lanning took a promotion to assistant principal and athletic director at Independence High School.
“The biggest factor about Independence is the guy that called me about the job,” Smith said. “Marcus was moved up to assistant principal and athletic director. He used to be a student teacher of mine. He was one of the best student teachers I had the opportunity to work with. I knew he would end up being the coach he was. I trust him and respect him and want to continue what he’s built.”
Independence went 14-8 last season.
“It’s obvious that they have a lot of good, young players,” Smith said. “I expect we’ll be successful. I’ll continue what Marcus did. I won’t change much. I’m excited about the young talent there. I’m excited to work with kids again. Hopefully I can mentor them.”
Smith retired from Labette County in June last year after spending 25 seasons as he head coach of the Grizzlies. He amassed a 289-262 record over his tenure in Altamont, guided Labette County to three SEK League titles, five state tournament berths and a state runner-up finish in 2000.
Smith said he itched to return to the sidelines during the 2019-20 season.
“Every Tuesday and Friday night, I would listen and watch games,” Smith said. “I missed being around kids. It’s hard to stop after so many years. I never really lost that passion.”
Independence loses six seniors from last year’s team, including its top four leading scorers in Davion Lewis, Jaden McGrath, TJ Turner and Amauryon Farley.
“The cupboard was not bare,” Smith said. “The junior varsity was very competitive with the youth in the program. Everybody lost a lot of folks in the SEK League. So we’re all in the same boat.”
Smith will serve as a Rule 10 coach for the Bulldogs while also maintaining employment with Labette Insurance.
“I think it’s a good fit,” Smith said. “I know a lot of different coaches and community members in Independence. I’m excited and privileged to have an opportunity to coach again.”