The Marianna High School boys basketball team will have a familiar face next season manning the sideline as their next head coach.
Former Graceville head coach Matt Anderson was hired as the successor to Travis Blanton, who resigned to accept a position as an assistant principal at Grand Ridge.
Anderson was released by Graceville in late April despite having a winning record in all four seasons at the helm.
A Marianna native, Anderson is ecstatic for the opportunity to remain coaching in Jackson County. To be able to do so practically down the road from his home was a blessing he said he couldn’t refuse.
“When the school about three miles away is interested in you and you’re already on the lookout for a job, it’s just too much to pass down,” Anderson said. “On a personal level it’s fantastic. It’s close to my house and my fiancé is able to keep working at the same school [Blountstown]. So this is just a huge advantage in so many ways.”
On the court, Anderson is excited for the opportunity to coach a Bulldogs squad he said has the talent and heart to compete with anyone. Last season, the Bulldogs went 6-19 and 2-4 in District1-4A in part due to key injuries including one with star shooting guard Herman Williams. But despite of last season and still working out how to maximize his new personnel, Anderson said as head coach, each season’s goal will always be to make it to states in Lakeland.
Graceville and Marianna split their season series last year.
Rising Marianna juniors Jaeden Harley and Anton Williams as well as rising sophomore Deontre’ Rhynes will create the nucleus of what Anderson believes can be a successful team because of the mental fortitude they developed through last season’s adversity.
“There’s some skill players that are talented. There’s not a lot of size but there’s enough size to compete, especially with the style of play that we’ll use,” Anderson said. “If everyone buys in I expect us to have a winning season.”
Last season, Graceville was 22-6. The Tigers finished 70-43 in Anderson’s four seasons. Anderson additionally was a coach at Malone, where he helped the school capture four state championship and also delivered district titles while at Bay and Ponce de Leon.
At Graceville, the foundation of Anderson’s Tigers was based on an up-tempo pace on both ends of the floor. He says the same scheme is going to be implemented at Marianna.
“We’ll press a lot in matchup zone. On offense we’ll be as fast as our personnel will allow us to,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be high pressure on both ends but at the same time very under control too.”
Anderson had a good conversation with Blanton before accepting the position and that the two are meeting on Tuesday to discuss the job specifically. The main thing Anderson took away from his talk with Blanton was how much faith the former Bulldogs coach had in the team.
“He loved the kids he had and hated to leave them. But it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down,” Anderson said. “He talked a lot about their dedication level and expects great things from them. He thinks I can take them to an even greater level.”
Blanton’s immense level of respect for Anderson makes the transition as seamless as possible.
“I’m very excited about his soon-to-be leadership of a program that I so deeply care about. He’s a proven winner. His record speaks for itself and I surely believe that hewill take this program to greater heights very soon,” Blanton said.
“I’m proud to be his friend and just as proud to say that he is the new coach at Marianna High School.”
Anderson is fired up and ready toget back on the court, as he plans to begin workouts with the team after spring football and when the summer basketball season starts. He said his meeting with new Marianna High School Principal Connie Brisolara reassured him this was the place he was meant to reassume his coaching career.
“I really loved what she had to say about what she wanted from all the programs at Marianna High School,” Anderson said. “She’s a competitive person, just like me. I think we both have very, very similar goals for the future of Marianna basketball. I’m very excited to get started.”