Transitioning from a career in education/athletics to one in politics, Bud Brandon announced his resignation as Wilson Central girls’ basketball coach Thursday.
The Lady Wildcats’ coach for 13 seasons since the school first opened its doors in 2001, Brandon, with his Hall of Fame-coach father Campbell by his side as his lead assistant, led Central to two state championships [2006 and ‘08] and five state tournaments, finishing with a won-loss record of 302-115.
Brandon, 53, has turned in a petition to run for Wilson County circuit court clerk in the August election. He informed the Lady Wildcats of his decision Thursday afternoon.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Brandon said later Thursday. “But it’s something I got some clarity on. With the election, you got to spend time and be fair to the girls and to the program and I got to be fair to the campaign, too.
“I didn’t come up with this three months ago. I’ve been thinking about it over a year, year and a half.
“It’s been an emotional day.”
Brandon, a 1979 Lebanon High graduate, spent 30 seasons coaching starting at Carroll-Oakland Elementary in the mid-1980s and for many years was at Mt. Juliet Junior High and Walter J. Baird Middle School, coaching boys and girls at various times along the way. During that period, he also assisted Mt. Juliet High girls’ coach Tommy Martin and, later, boys’ coach Tim Bell.
His WJB boys won a couple of James C. Haile state tournaments with a nucleus of players who would later Randall Hutto’s Lebanon Blue Devils to the 2000 state semifinals and ’01 quarters.
“We hate to lose him,” Central athletic director Chip Bevis said in a release. “But we wish him well as he runs for circuit court clerk. He has done a great job as the head coach, and Wilson Central has the banners hanging in the gym to prove it. Bud’s leadership and influence on the young ladies he has coached goes far beyond the basketball court and will continue to do so for years to come.
“We will begin the challenge of hiring a new basketball coach, but we can never replace Bud Brandon. He is a winner and will always be a Wildcat.”
Brandon’s departure ends one of the more remarkable coaching partnerships in high school sports. Campbell Brandon coached Lebanon to the 1971 state championship and assisted his son on Central’s two titles. Though Jim B. and Clint Satterfield accomplished the same feat with Trousdale County football, the Brandons’ achievements may be unique in Tennessee high school basketball.
“That’s something most people don’t get to experience,” Bud said of coaching with his father. “Most people have never had the opportunity and don’t know how and what a blessing that is.
“In the day-to-day operation of doing this, that’s a very rewarding thing that I’ve had. But there’s been days he and I don’t see eye to eye. But that’s a challenge. He’s always challenged me to turn my wheels… Sometimes he might disagree to make you think at a higher level.”
Campbell Brandon coached during two of the golden eras of girls’ basketball in Wilson County – the early 1980s when Lebanon and Mt. Juliet were among the state’s elite and again in the mid 2000s when the Lady Bears and Wildcats combined to win three state championships in a four-year span.
Martin was the Lady Bears’ coach three decades ago and Chris Fryer was on the Mt. Juliet bench for the 21st-century battles with the Brandons.
“We had a great rivalry,” Fryer said Thursday. “The Brandon family has had such an impact on Tennessee high school basketball. I hate to see that end. It’s kind of a changing of the guard. I hope the rivalry doesn’t change.
“It’s been a civil rivalry. We’ve gotten along but it’s been intense. It’s not going to be the same with him not being on the sideline. It’s going to be strange to watch Wilson Central with him not on the bench when the season rolls around.”
Interestingly, both coaches draw much of their basketball philosophies from Campbell Brandon, whose Devilette teams often practiced with the Lady Bears. Martin and longtime Mt. Juliet assistant John Simms took a lot from Brandon’s system and passed their playbooks down to Fryer.
“We get along better than people think we do,” Fryer said. “The games were intense, but off the court, we had a lot of respect for the Wilson Central program and a lot of respect for Coach Brandon. He did things the right way. We were similar in a lot of ways.”