By Joe Henricksen
Lamont Bryant, who led Marshall to prominence and has spent the last two years as coach at South Shore, is back at a high-profile Chicago Public League basketball program. Bryant will replace Donnie Kirksey as head coach at Hyde Park.
"We wanted a seasoned guy, someone who could hit the ground running," says Hyde Park principal Thomas Trotter, a former Division I head basketball coach. "We found that guy in Lamont Bryant. We wanted someone with a reputation as a winner, who will bring discipline, experience and toughness."
Bryant had a marvelous four-year run at Marshall, where he compiled a 108-23 record. He also took a pair of teams to the Elite Eight, with his 2006 and 2007 teams both finishing third in the state. The 2006 team, led by the trio of Ryan Hare, Michael Stovall and Darius Smith, finished 30-2 but fell to Simeon and Derrick Rose in the state semifinals.
"I feel rejuvenated," says Bryant, who adds he appreciates the opportunity given to him by Trotter and assistant principal Antonio Ross. "I have the chance to come after Donnie [Kirksey] who set the stage for me. He started it and has passed the torch. There is a lot to like about Hyde Park and I'm excited."
Although controversy did follow Bryant at Marshall, where a firestorm erupted when he was fired just prior to the start of the 2007-2008 season, Trotter is enthusiastic about the veteran coach having 20 years in education.
"Basketball was a small part of this hire, really," says Trotter. "There were a lot of great candidates who were interested in this job, but we came up with what we feel is the best guy to replace coach Kirksey. We believe he can do some things in our building that is important for our student body."
Now Bryant gets a shot as coach of a program that is designed for success. Kirksey lifted the program to a new level and left it in great shape with the return of 6-5 senior Aqui Shareef and a host of talented young players, including junior guard Treyshawn Jones. Many believe Hyde Park is a sleeping giant in the CPS, with location, academics and recent success all a plus. Bryant will instill discipline, with his direct approach, while also bringing a style of play that will surely result in an attacking-type of pressure and defense.
"Strap your seatbelt on," says Bryant of the up-tempo and attacking style his teams are known for.
In addition, Bryant is someone coaching and teaching in the Chicago Public League. Bryant has been a part of the education system for 21 years with classroom teaching experience. He is a coach who can preach education to his players and students in the school as he has a high school, college and teaching degree. That impact should not be lost in the hiring of Bryant.