SIOUX CITY – Brian Drent likes a challenge and his next coaching opportunity presents just that.
Drent enters the high school basketball season as the new head man in charge of the East girls program as he makes the transition from the baseball diamond to the hardwood.
Drent spent the past six seasons in charge of Morningside College, leading that program to six consecutive appearances in the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament including a GPAC championship in 2016.
Now he embarks on a new challenge with a Black Raiders girls program that has only produced one winning season in the last decade, 16-8 in 2007-08, and has only reached double digits in wins once (2014-15) in the last eight seasons.
“The transition has been pretty smooth,” said Drent, who’s squad dropped a tense Iowa Hall of Pride Scrimmage game to Westwood on Friday 49-48. “I think coaching is coaching, it’s about trying to make your team better whether that’s baseball players or basketball players. It’s a different skill set, but it’s been a great transition so far.”
Drent, who previously spent six seasons as head baseball coach at Sioux City North, where he was also a boys basketball assistant coach, went 172-69 as the Stars head man, winning a state title in 2009 when he was named Class 4A coach of the year.
He moved on to Morningside where his teams were consistently battling for the league regular season title and where he accumulated a 200-129 record that included a school-record 44 and a NAIA national tournament berth in 2016.
He’s staying in the Morningside area, but has made the move back to the high school ranks where with wife Angela, the father of two, an eighth-grader and fourth-grader, will get an opportunity to spend more time with family and eventually coach both of his daughters.
“Personally, it’s been great for my family, lot more time at home, though, it’s going to get busy with basketball,” he said. “I had some great relationships with our players and obviously a great program at Morningside. That’s a really difficult decision to leave the guys that you recruited to go play baseball for you at the college, so that was a tough decision.
“From a professional side I still feel good about the decision, it’s still tough, you walk away from a college job, always think it’s a great opportunity and we had a lot of success and had built a very solid baseball program there. Tough to walk away from that, for my family I certainly enjoy being home more, I got a chance to coach my eighth-grade daughter, just being around a lot more has been a really good change.”
Drent had been mulling over a return to high school coaching, especially with his daughters getting older and closer to high school and middle school, and saw an opportunity when the East girls position became available.
“I was contemplating getting back into high school, just because of the time commitment with the college game and the family,” Drent said. “I love coaching, so I wanted to coach.
“Just talking it over with my family it’s a chance to build a program again.”
Drent took over a North baseball program in 2006 that had one state tournament appearance in the first six seasons of the decade, that coming in 2004. The Stars quickly became a Missouri River Conference contender, winning four league titles and qualifying for the 4A state tournament three consecutive years (2008, 09, 10).
The 1992 Worthington (Minnesota) High School graduate spent one season playing baseball at Morningside College under Jim Scholten, who Drent would succeed as head man when Scholten retired after 28 seasons.
Drent never finished lower than fourth in his six seasons at the helm of the Mustangs, guiding the program to their first NAIA national tournament berth since the school made the switch back from NCAA Division II in the early 2000s.
“We built the program at North High, we built a good program at Morningside, I guess I like to get to work and see what you can do and the intrigue at East High was there was talented players there,” Drent said. “We have a really talented eighth-grade group that my daughter is a part of and really it’s just a chance to coach my kids and is not an opportunity that many dads get, it’s a chance to build a program and coach your kids.
“The one thing I told our family no matter how great the baseball program was at Morningside they could never be a real part of it.
“This is one of those rare opportunities that if we can build a good program at East High the time we put in now building this program, they get to reap the benefits of it. I have an eighth-grader and a fourth-grader, they’re going to both get the benefits of that and that’s something on the baseball side they could never be a part of it.”
East returns its entire roster from last season led by seniors Taylor Copple, Lauren Van Dyke, Paige Hanson and Grace Hildahl along with sophomores Katlynn Tucker and Kennedy McCloy.
Copple was the team’s lone double figure scorer at 13.5 points per game for a team that averaged 52 points per game. Tucker, who set a single season school record with 52 three-pointers, averaged 8.8 and McCloy, who hit 27 three-pointers, 9.5.
“We got to play at a different pace,” said Drent. “We’re going to play seven to 10 girls, maybe even 11 to 12 girls on a nightly basis. We’re going to play with tempo, we got to push the pace, were not incredibly tall, we’ve got a lot of average size girls. We think we can get out and run and we have some good shooters with Tucker and McCloy.
“We’re going to roll the dice and try and play fast and create some chaos and get some easy scoring opportunities.”
The opportunity to remain a head coach was the final intrigue that drew Drent to the East job, that and his daughters will be part of the program in the near future.
“It was just really intriguing, this is a great opportunity, you can stay involved with coaching, you can continue to be a head coach,” he said. “I have always loved coaching basketball, I worked with John Vanderloo at North High for five years the intrigue of getting back in there, getting back into basketball and the chance to be a head coach really put me over the edge.”
It was a win-win for both the Black Raiders and Drent family.