By Trey Williams
Brandon Broyles was the head boys basketball coach five seasons at North Greene, where his Huskies won the program’s first district title in 27 years and compiled the program’s best record (27-8) in more than two decades in 2016-17.
He was an assistant seven years at Daniel Boone, a run that included back-to-back postseason wins against Science Hill, a district title and a sectional berth.
And he spent the past five seasons as an assistant at Tennessee High, where the Vikings advanced to the regional tournament back-to-back seasons and finished second one year in the Big Seven Conference.
But he’s felt like a greenhorn since becoming a Blue Devil when he accepted the Unicoi County girls basketball head coaching position last week.
“I reached out to some people that I have a lot of confidence and faith in that’ve coached both (boys and girls),” Broyles said, “and they said, ‘Brandon, once you coach girls you’ll never coach boys again.’ They say, ‘You’ll love it.’ But it still scares me to death because I’ve never done it.”
Tennessee High athletic director Barry Wade, who previously had a successful stint as the Vikings girls basketball coach offered reassuring thoughts.
“Coach Wade said, ‘I’d like to sit here and tell you that you won’t be successful at it. But I know your personality and I know the person you are, and the girls will love you,’” Broyles said.
Broyles attended David Crockett (class of 2000) and Milligan College (’04). He was a volunteer assistant for the Milligan men’s basketball team under Tony Wallingford.
“Coach Wallingford, in my opinion, is one of the best guys around,” Broyles said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without him. I probably wouldn’t have even graduated from college if it wasn’t for Coach Wallingford. I view Coach Wallingford kind of like a dad.”
Broyles’ uncle, Joe Kilday, coached him in middle school football at Doak.
“My uncle coached me and I remember thinking, ‘This is something I might enjoy doing,’” said Broyles, who noted learning a thing or two from high school coaches such as Roby Witcher, Ryan Arnold, Michael McMeans and North Greene girls coach James Buchanan. “I think James might be one of the best, if not the best, girls coaches in the area. He’s someone I’m gonna be relying heavily on.”
Family also influenced Broyles’ decision to take the Unicoi County job. His wife Ashley is a 2001 graduate of Unicoi County and her parents reside in Erwin.
“She said she’s ready to get her Big Blue stuff back out,” Broyles said.
Broyles’ cousin, Paula Kilday, played at South Greene for Larry Ricker when its rivalry with Unicoi County was one of the best in the state. South Greene defeated Glenn Fisher’s Blue Devils 58-48 in the 1991 state championship game.
“I remember being a little kid and going and watching those two play at South Greene,” Broyles said. “It seemed like every time they played it was an absolute war. It was very physical, fun basketball to watch.
“There’s a lot of history here, a great tradition. I actually did my student teaching over there with Coach Fisher when I was graduating from Milligan.”
Students in the class in which Broyles did his student teaching included Unicoi County football coach Drew Rice and girls basketball assistant Lauren Trivette.
Unicoi County director of schools and former Blue Devils boys basketball coach John English, athletic director Chris Bogart and principal Amy Horton helped seal the deal for Broyles.
“I talked to coach English and coach Bogart and Dr. Horton, and they’re basketball- and sports-minded people,” Broyles said. “And most of all, what stuck out to me, was just how good of people they are.”
The Blue Devils are coming off back-to-back losing seasons that included 5-7 and 3-9 records in the Three Rivers Conference. And Broyles will have to replace versatile 1,000-point scorer Caroline Podvin and guards Tenley Holt and Leah Edney, who helped deal Three Rivers Conference champion Sullivan East its lone league loss.
“They beat East once and every time they played ‘em it was (competitive),” Broyles said. “I’ve already watched that film.”
Guard Allie Lingerfelt had a promising freshman season in 2020-21.
“I think we’ve got a good little nucleus of some young kids and some older kids that we can build around,” Broyles said. “The little Lingerfelt girl is a great ballplayer. I think we’ve got a couple of post players that can help us. I’m excited.”
A team meeting was held Friday.
“We had 23 or 24 girls come to the meeting that are interested in playing and a few that maybe quit last year that’s gonna come back out,” Broyles said.
If he has his druthers, Broyles’ teams will play fast.
“We’re gonna try to play more of a free style on offense, get it up and down the floor and kind of run the dribble drives and be fast-paced,” he said. “Now, I say that, but it may be one of those things where we have to go back and be more structured. We won’t know until we get in there and see what we can do and can’t do. Unfortunately, with the timing, I wasn’t able to take ‘em to camp.
“But my plan is to press and try to play fast and try to get it up and down the floor and make it fun for the community to come watch and make it fun for the kids to play in. We want to be hard-nosed and play a tough, exciting style of basketball.”
Unicoi County’s conference will have a different look beginning this coming season. It’ll include Tennessee High, Elizabethton, Volunteer and Sullivan East.
“Everyone says East is the team to beat,” Broyles said. “I think it’ll be tough from top to bottom. It’ll be one of the better girls basketball leagues in East Tennessee. It’ll be a war every night.”
Unicoi County will resume summer workouts on Monday, July 19.