Bates steps down as Lady Cougar coach

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In eight seasons, coach led the program to 123 wins

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The man who changed careers so that he could become a coach, stepped down on Thursday as Bullitt Central Lady Cougar head coach Bryan Bates met with his team to announce his resignation.

Bates was at the helm for the past eight years of very consistent basketball. The Lady Cougars posted a 123-102 record over that span and never failed to win at least 12 games.

The timing of the decision came just a week after Bates had conducted his annual summer Lady Cougar Basketball Camp.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now,” Bates said early this week. “I wanted to get through the Lady Cougar Camp so that there was no confusion there. The time was just right for me to step down.”

Bates was coming off his most successful season as the Lady Cougars posted a 21-9 record, the most wins for the program in more than a decade.

However, the Lady Cougars could not overcome a late season injury, once again struggling to a poor finish under frustrating situations. For all of Bates’ victories, the Lady Cougars did not win a district title under his watch. Three times they lost in the district final and then lost in the first round of the Sixth Region Tournament.

Still, none of that had anything to do with Bates opting to step down.

“There are a lot of factors included in it,” the coach said. “Family is definitely a big factor. We have three kids under the age of six. Now we are getting into my kids going into basketball leagues and swim lessons. That leads to having to make tough decisions about how you use your time.

“I had to make the decision if I wanted to be the best husband and father I could be or the best basketball coach,” Bates explained. “It wasn’t a tough decision.”

In addition, Bates had just completed his degree work for his Rank I so that he could become a counselor. While he has not taken a job in that part of school administration, he is looking and didn’t want to have to drop the basketball obligations at a more difficult time.

Bates graduated from Bullitt Central in 1994 after an impressive playing career. He was a junior on former head coach Bill Schott’s final Cougar team and then played for one season under David Miller.

At the time, Bates was not interested in becoming a coach. He went and played basketball at Centre College and earned his economics degree. He then returned to Bullitt County and worked for two years for the Peoples Bank of Bullitt County.

It was while he was in that job that then Bullitt Central Lady Cougar head coach Christy Coulter asked if he could volunteer his time with her program. He agreed and quickly fell in love with coaching. He went back to school and attended the University of Louisville to get his teaching degree. Bates then taught at Nelson County High School for one year before returning to Bullitt Central where he became Coulter’s assistant coach.

After the 2004 season, Coulter stepped down and Bates was promoted to the top job.

“I had played basketball my entire life,” Bates said. “I wondered if I would like coaching. I did some substitute teaching and I liked that. I wondered if I should go back to school to teach. I haven’t regretted it one bit. I love coaching.”

While most local fans judge coaches against there biggest rivals, Bates’ toughest foe turned out not to be Bullitt East, but it was Fairdale. The coach oversaw the programs’ move from the Eighth Region in his first season to the 24th District and the Sixth Region for the next six years. This past year the school moved to the 23rd District.

In each of the past two seasons, Bates had at least one win over Bullitt East. In fact, in eight seasons as the head coach, Bates faced Bullitt East just once, losing to them in the 24th District final in 2011.

Fairdale was a different story. In five straight seasons the Lady Cougars lost in district play to Fairdale. One of those was in the district final in 2006, but then there were four straight losses to the Lady Bulldogs in the semi-finals. The most painful being a 62-58 loss to Fairdale in 2009 after Bullitt Central had beaten them twice during the regular season.

Once Fairdale fell back, Bates’ bad luck in the post-season multiplied. Two years ago, the Lady Cougars lost to Bullitt East in the district final, but still were prepared to make noise in the Sixth Region Tournament only to have point guard Keoka Hilliard suffer an ankle injury in the last practice before the regional tourney. Bullitt Central ended up losing to Holy Cross 48-46 with Hilliard on the bench.

It didn’t get any better this past season. In the final ten days of the regular season, and possibly during a victory over Bullitt East, the Lady Cougars lost starting guard Selena Yunt with a broken hand. Yunt was on the bench as North Bullitt overcame a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter and beat the Lady Cougars 49-38 in the 23rd District final. That forced Bullitt Central to take on Mercy in the first game of the Sixth Region Tournament, a game they lost 82-49.

“We’ve had some tough injuries but that is how it goes,” the coach said. “The past two years the injuries have been real tough in the post-season for sure.”

In retiring, Bates knows that he will miss the players more than anything else.

“I’m a better person now for all the players I have coached,” the coach said. “I have learned from them. I was recently at the wedding of one of my former players and there is another one coming up. I’m blessed for having known them and coaching them.

“I get emotional thinking about it,” Bates added. “There are all the players and parents as well as the coaches. I’ve had some great (assistant) coaches who have worked with me.”

Bates said that assistant coach Josh Cravens is running the program now and that his top assistant this past season would do a great job as the head coach.

“I definitely want to thank God for giving me the work with all the wonderful people I’ve been around,” the coach concluded. “I’m a better person for having done so.”

Bryan Bates' career at Bullitt Central

2011-2012: 21-9, Lost to NB in District Final 49-38; Lost to Mercy 82-49 in Sixth Region

2010-2011: 15-11, Lost District Final to BE 57-43; Lost to Holy Cross 48-46

2009-2010: 12-14, Lost in District to Fairdale 70-40

2008-2009: 19-8, Lost in district opener to Fairdale 62-58

2007-2008: 12-15, Beat Southern 50-24 in District opener; Lost to Fairdale 72-25 in semi-finals

2006-2007: 13-15, Beat Southern 67-33 in District opener; Lost to Fairdale 58-41 in semi-finals

2005-2006: 18-12, Beat NB in district opener 47-36; Lost to Fairdale 69-45 in District Final; Lost to Butler 62-33 in Sixth Region

2004-2005: 13-15, Lost to NB 46-30 in District opener

123-102 Career Record