Chance meeting leads Branson to Pike County

Published 9:54 pm Monday, October 31, 2011

Was it fate? Was it luck? Was it just plain happenstance?

Either way, Doug Branson is home and that’s right where he wants to be.

The 39-year-old enters his first season as Pike County High School’s head basketball coach, a welcomed and exciting change for the former Goshen High School star.

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Branson found his was to Brundidge thanks to a chance meeting between his father and Pike County High School principal Willie Wright.

While attending a recreation baseball game in Troy, Branson and Wright found themselves standing beside one another and struck up a conversation.

“Dad told him that he was an old coach and Mr. Wright mentioned he was a principal,” Branson explained. “My father told him if he needed a basketball coach, he had one.”

As it turned out, Wright did need a coach. After exchanging numbers, Branson called Wright, interviewed the next week and was hired 10 days later.

“It was just one of those things,” Branson said. “I’m here. I’m supposed to be here.”

Branson felt the opportunity at Pike County came at a perfect time for his family.

“It got to a point where traveling around the country at the college level was taking a toll on my kids,” Branson said. “So coming home was very important.”

Branson and his wife Toni are parents to three, Virginia (9), Katherine (5), and Doug III (3).

Branson played his first three years of prep ball at Northwood High School in Saltville, VA, before moving with his family to Goshen. During his senior campaign in 1991, he led the Eagles to the AHSAA Elite Eight.

Branson spent most of his young coaching career kicking around the college scene. He served as an assistant at Wallace Community College in Dothan before finishing his bachelor of science degree in mathematics at Troy State in 1997. In 2006, Branson took over as interim head coach at Columbus State, replacing the school’s all-time winningest coach, Herbert Greene. The interim tag was removed prior to the 2007 season. Branson resigned in 2010 after four seasons.

While at Columbus State, Branson recruited the school’s first 1st-team All-American, Yandel Brown. Brown would finish his career as CSU’s second all-time leading scorer.

The call to coach took Branson to Poplarville, MS where he became an assistant at Pearl River Community College.

Now at Pike County, Branson is looking to not only grow roots but also grow a program.

Branson’s emphasis on physical toughness is something he looks to instill in both his veterans as well as his underclassmen.

“We are going to implement at the seventh and eighth grade level what we expect in our program,” Branson said. “As they come up they’ll know what the expectations are.”

Branson said the defense is a major point of emphasis as well.

“We want to guard them and take away their strengths. They are going to have to beat us with their weakness.”

While defense will be a main focus speed on offense while protecting the ball is what Branson wants to see from the Bulldogs this season.

“I want them to be able to play fast but also without turnovers.”

Pike County finished 11-18 last season but Branson expects a much improved squad from a year ago despite the challenges of learning a new system.

“Adjusting to change is always tough but playing smart, turnover free basketball something that happens on the floor not on the chalkboard.”

While wins are what Branson expects, lessons learned on the court are just as valuable.

“We want to teach these kids things they will need to be successful in life as well. How to work hard and practice, toughness and how to compete are all things that they can use after their playing days are over.”

Pike County opens its varsity season Nov. 15 in Clayton against Barbour County.