BAUXITE When Andy Brakebill first accepted a job as an assistant coach with the Bauxite High School boys basketball program, he said he had many people question his decision.
“Why are you going there to coach basketball?” Brakebill said they asked. “You aren’t going to be able to win in basketball.”
But in his five years as head coach, Brakebill led the Miners to the program’s first conference championship, its first state tournament win and its first regional championship.
“So it can be done,” Brakebill said.
He plans on taking that same mentality to Poyen High School after he was recently named the school’s new boys basketball head coach. The Indians finished 6-18 last season under head coach Blue Kesterson. Superintendent Jerry Newton said Kesterson will step down as head boys basketball coach but will remain on as a teacher and the head softball coach.
Newton said that after compiling a list of possible candidates for the position, he was told that Brakebill might have some interest in the coaching job.
“He and I got together to discuss our opening and talked about goals and where we wanted to go with our program,” Newton said. “We talked about his plan to get us there and what his thoughts were on what a successful program is.
“I did more research and discovered he is one of the best basketball coaches in our area and also a very good teacher.”
Brakebill, who won 99 games as head coach at Bauxite, said the job has always intrigued him.
“And at the same time, I felt like it was time for a change for me and my family,” he said. “I just really felt like the Lord opened this door.
“I just felt like it was the right time, and sometimes it is all about timing.”
Brakebill grew up in Hot Springs, attending Hot Springs Lakeside — winning a state championship in basketball his junior year. He transferred to Bismarck High School his senior year and graduated in 2001. He graduated from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, and during college, he spent a lot of his free time attending Poyen basketball games.
“I just remember seeing the tradition and how much the community supported the basketball program there,” Brakebill said.
Brakebill said he and Vick Barrett, Poyen’s head football coach, played on the same Amateur Athletic Union basketball team.
“I am looking forward to working with all those guys out there,” Brakebill said. “I have heard from multiple people, if you ever have an opportunity to work at Poyen, then jump at it because it will be a great place to work.”
The Poyen School Board approved Newton’s recommendation on April 12.
“I am extremely excited to have him as the next coach of the Poyen Indians,” Newton said. “I feel he will do an outstanding job, and I look forward to seeing his teams play.
“I am confident he will lead our young men to many victories on the court and also be an outstanding role model for them.”
Bauxite was Brakebill’s first head-coaching position, but he has been coaching for a little over a decade, starting as an assistant coach at Bryant High School under Mark Smith. At that time, he was also the seventh- and eighth-grade Bryant Middle School coach for three years.
“I went to Rogers Heritage and was the assistant girls coach for two years before coming back here to Bauxite,” Brakebill said. “Mark was one of the main guys who helped me get hired on.”
Smith was the head coach at Bauxite for four years and had Brakebill as an assistant for two. When Smith decided to step down, Brakebill was promoted to head coach. After one of Brakebill’s assistants left unexpectedly two years ago, Smith was asked to come back to basketball.
“He was such a good assistant to me; I wanted to help him,” Smith said. “And I was lucky, because we won 45 games and went to the quarterfinals twice in the state tournament and won a regional.
“It was a heck of a ride for me, and I was glad to be a part of it. It helped close out my coaching career, too.”
Smith said he has worked around and with some really good coaches in his time, but he said Brakebill is the best he has seen in knowing the game, breaking down the opponent and knowing how to motivate kids to play hard.
“Poyen is getting a good coach, and Bauxite is losing a good coach,” Smith said. “That is just the cold hard facts.
“I have said before, he is going to be successful wherever he goes because he is that good. I hope kids buy in to what he is doing because they are going to be successful.”
Smith said that when he was the head coach at Bryant, Brakebill was one of his middle school coaches, and he could tell right off by watching him coach that Brakebill’s teams knew what they were doing.
“They were very fundamental, and Andy had a desire to know more and more,” Smith said. “A lot of guys who get into coaching, after a couple of years, they are set in their ways.
“But he is constantly changing and constantly wanting to know something different. … He works a system around his players and whatever strengths they have.”
Smith said one of Brakebill’s biggest strengths is the fact that he is so good at the little things.
“We would break down a team, and on game days, we would spend an hour and a half going over everything the other team does,” Smith said. “By the end of it, we knew what the other team does as good as they did and how to guard it.
“We were always within striking distance of Arkansas Baptist because he knew how to play them,” Smith said. “He really is that good at getting guys to believe in him and believe what he is doing.
“When kids believe and buy in to what you are doing and give 100 percent effort, then you are going to be a successful coach.”
Brakebill said he has already met with members of the Poyen Indians.
“It was fun getting to see those guys and just talking to them about my plans and the goals that we are going to shoot for,” Brakebill said. “It is always exciting when you have a change and meet new people.”
He said his biggest goal for Poyen is to help change the team’s mindset.
“They’ve got to believe they can win, and that comes through every day in practice,” Brakebill said. “Kids are going to perform based on what you are doing in practice — going back to the daily grind and being everyday guys and working hard. My No. 1 goal is to develop them as basketball players from the ground up.
“I am going to focus a lot of time on skill development and just getting them to where they are complete basketball players.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.