There’s an assistant on his staff whom Deshler boys basketball coach Brian Pounders can’t exactly treat like a subordinate.
That would be Steve Pounders, who in addition to being Brian’s father also has 29-plus years more experience as a high school head coach than his son.
For 24 years, Steve was the head coach at Belgreen, leading the Bulldogs to some of their most successful seasons on program history.
After Steve stepped down as a coach in 2004-05 and concluded his career as an educator after last school year, he was called up of retirement by his son, who landed his first head coaching job heading into this season at Deshler.
“I try to work him pretty hard,” Brian joked. “Nah, but he’s great on the bench. He’s got all that experience. When I need to call a timeout or maybe sub or change defenses or make adjustments, he’s right there. My other assistants do a great job as well, but they don’t have 30 years of experience like he has. He’s been a very valuable asset.
“I don’t make him wash uniforms or pick up cups or anything. I just ask him for advice, what would he do, how he thinks practice went, what does he think. He’s got access to our huddle now, watches game film and everything. I ‘yes sir, no sir’ him just how I would my principal.”
Steve previously was head coach for six years at Stevenson before going to Belgreen, where, after stepping down as coach, he spent his final four years as an assistant principal and then principal before retiring.
Brian played for his dad at Belgreen in 1995-98 and was bit by the coaching bug early, growing up in the gym.
“When I was in first or second grade, I knew I wanted to be a basketball coach,” Brian said. “I used to stay after school every day with him instead of riding the bus home and go to their practices. We used to go to the state tournament whenever he didn’t take his team there and stay a few days and watch the games. I knew without a doubt when I reached high school that’s what I wanted to do. It’s been a blessing. I’m glad he’s shown me the way.”
Even back then, Steve had an idea his son might pursue a similar career.
One incident, in particular, sticks out for Steve. Belgreen had made it to the state tournament the season before, but lost to Red Bay in overtime early on in 1985-86.
“I’ll never forget,” Steve said. “I get to the dressing room, and he’s in there crying. I asked him what’s the matter, and he said, ‘We lost the ball game, daddy.’ That right there showed me how much it mattered to him. That’s what he’s been living all his life. It’s kind of in the family, and he loves to coach. When you love to coach, that’s what you ought to do.”
Brian served as a student assistant for his dad at Belgreen in 1999-2000 while he played junior college ball at Northwest-Shoals. The Bulldogs went 28-5 that season, advancing to the state semifinals.
Brian came to Deshler from Gardendale, where he worked as an assistant. Before that, he spent eight seasons in the college ranks, four at Alabama as a student assistant, one as a volunteer assistant at UNA and three more as an assistant at Montevallo.
“That was fun, I enjoyed that, but I was ready to put down some roots,” Brian said.
When he landed the Deshler job, he already had in mind an ideal candidate to join his staff.
“I always thought if I got back up this way, if it was within driving distance (from Steve’s Russellville home), that I could get him to at least come sit on the bench for the games,” Brian said. “But it has worked out where he has been able to come almost all the practices, too. The timing was just right with him retiring.”
Brian also brought his mom, Teresa, out of retirement to keep the score book for Deshler this season.
“I was happy about it,” Steve said. “I wasn’t really sure about it, but I was happy he wanted me to be with him.
“I’ve enjoyed it. Being an assistant coach, you get to sit there and enjoy the game more,” Steve said. “You don’t have to make all those 5-second decisions of what to do and what not to do. Really, the pressure is really not on you if the decision is good or bad.”
Their coaching styles are pretty similar these days, the two agree.
“He’s changed a little bit in the last 10 years,” Brian said. “Now we play more man-to-man (defense) and try to use our athleticism. At Belgreen we ran 1-3-1 (zone defense) about 90 percent of the time. We never played man hardly.”
Of course, the speed of the games faster these days with the competition Deshler faces, including a competitive Class 3A, Area 16.
The Tigers have made strides in Brian’s first year but are still lacking the consistency their coach would like to see. They knocked off perennial power and area foe Mars Hill on the road last Tuesday but followed up with back-to-back losses to Lauderdale County and Sheffield.
Deshler heads into the area tournament as the No. 3 seed.
“Hopefully, we can get some things rolling here, and we can have some records and accomplishments like that,” Brian said, recalling some of his dad’s Belgreen teams. “He certainly knows what it takes and has been a great help. We have a lot of talent and athleticism, it’s just a matter of getting on the same page and doing it consistently.”