When Trey Watts decided to leave Guyer after two seasons to take the head coaching job at Class 2A Wall, a long line formed to take over the Wildcats’ boys basketball program.
When the dust settled, there was a familiar face left standing as Grant Long was named the new head coach after serving as an assistant coach at Guyer for the past six seasons under Watts and former head coach Nathan Moses.
“I’m very excited,” Long said. “I’m appreciative for what I’ve learned sitting back and watching those other guys. That is invaluable, but I’m very excited to take the lead and I’m confident in the boys that we have.”
Long knows what it takes to lead a program, serving as the head coach at Class 3A Sealy for two years before coming to Guyer. And his father, James Long, is a longtime head baseball coach with more than 600 career wins and two state championships at El Campo and Brenham.
“I’ve definitely learned from him as far as just building a winning tradition and what it takes,” Grant Long said.
The Guyer job has not always been terribly appealing, as the Wildcats have gone through some lean years, including this past season when they finished 12-18 with a 4-10 mark in District 7-5A. The Wildcats have made just one playoff appearance, losing in the first round to Azle in 2009.
But a move back down to Class 4A next school year, coupled with a wealth of young talent that has been together since middle school, has the Wildcats poised to become a power on the hardwood.
“We definitely have really high expectations,” Long said. “We don’t expect anything but to be at the top. We have a winning mind-set in everything we do. My biggest blessing is the type of kids these kids are. The parents have done a great job with them and they’re great to be around. They’re really high-character kids. That’s going to be a key to our success.”
Watts said he hoped Long would get the job when he left for Wall in April, and his feelings haven’t changed.
“He’s been loyal to Guyer High School and has gone through a couple of head coaches,” Watts said. “I really enjoyed working with him. He worked side by side with me. He wasn’t so much an assistant as he was a co-head coach. It’s a perfect situation to step into with the way the school is and the kids getting older.”
Long got the nod over several successful applicants and was a finalist along with Fort Worth Arlington Heights head coach Josh Welch, Belton head coach John Osborn, Ryan assistant Jay Swafford and Keller Central head coach Kit Pehl, whose team won District 7-5A last season.
Guyer head football coach and athletic director John Walsh said Long’s prior head coaching experience and familiarity with the Guyer program gave him the edge.
“He had the combination of being in our program through the not-so-good years and then knowing he was head coach in Sealy made it an easy decision for me,” Walsh said. “He’s had me sold that he can run and lead a program. The opportunity came up that it opened up again and we did a pretty extensive search, and we all came out wanting Grant Long.”
Walsh said he expected some to question the decision, considering the program’s struggles in recent years with Long on the staff, but he said he has a quick answer for any doubters.
“I’ve been asked that question, and the answer is simple: Through all those times I always thought he was the glue that was keeping a lot of the positive vibe together,” Walsh said. “He was a big part of whatever winning culture there was. I just thought it was a great time to put him in charge of it. We have a lot of talent, and I think someone that’s grinding it out already has a great chance to really make this thing flourish.”
Long said he already is well at work making sure his team is prepared for the 2012-13 season as a member of District 5-4A, and that includes scheduling Class 5A opponents such as two-time defending state champion Flower Mound Marcus.
“Our position is and will always be that we will treat every opponent and every game like we’re in 5A in the toughest district there is, regardless of who it is,” Long said. “We’re going to coach like we’re coaching at the top.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is email@example.com .