Here’s the thing about the college basketball coaching world: it’s not always as sexy as big television networks make it out to be with multi-million dollar contracts, a closet full of tailored Armani suites, $100 haircuts and five-figure bonuses for things such as a team grade point average above a 3.0.
Often, you start well down the totem pole in some back corner of the country, gradually work up to an assistant position and then maybe parlay that into a head coach job. It often takes years, and a lot of the positions outside NCAA Division I don’t pay amazingly high.
Landon Cosby has been coaching in college basketball in some capacity for nearly 10 years with stops at Salt Lake Community College, Northern Arizona University and Eastern Oregon University. He just wrapped up another season as an assistant coach for men’s basketball at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
Westminster is one of two men’s basketball programs in the D-II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (which includes Dixie State) that doesn’t have a full-time assistant men’s basketball coach, according to data pulled from the U.S. Department of Education.
So Friday night, Cosby was serving tables at the Tortilla Union restaurant in Farmington, where he’s been off and on for around three years.
“There’s a million other coaches doing the exact same thing ... but it will be nice to focus on one thing instead of driving to Salt Lake in the morning, practicing the guys and scheduling, drive to Farmington, then drive home to Ogden,” Cosby said Friday night in a phone interview.
Weber High principal Chris Earnest confirmed Thursday that Cosby had accepted the boys basketball head coach position at WHS along with a full-time position teaching physical education. Cosby lives in South Ogden and was commuting to Salt Lake City each day for the Westminster job.
“The grind of, I’m driving 80 miles a day and working at one job, or the other job or both jobs in the offseason. During the season I’m working a Sunday night if we’re not on the road,” Cosby explained. “If I don’t have a scout (duty) that week, maybe I pick up a Tuesday or Wednesday night (at a restaurant).
“That’s what I signed up for and I loved every minute of it, but you could say I was getting worn down ... I was tired of moving and it costs a lot to move.”
Cosby, a Bonneville High alumnus, coached at TH Bell Junior High and at Bonneville after graduation. Then he was a student manager for Weber State’s men’s basketball team for three seasons from 2008-11 when a guy named Damian Lillard was lighting up the Purple Palace.
On the side, he worked at a restaurant. Cosby, who graduated high school in 2003, hadn’t finished his degree at WSU yet, so his prospects of getting an assistant coach job there were nonexistent.
So he coached at SLCC from 2011-14 (waiting tables as well), finished his degree at WSU in 2014, then went to Northern Arizona for a season as the Lumberjacks’ director of basketball operations before stops at Eastern Oregon and Westminster, the latter for three seasons.
Cosby was unavailable for a recent phone interview until almost 10 p.m. because, as anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant can tell you, that’s just how a Friday night goes in food service.
In a way, basketball and restaurant work have been the two constants in his life. But Cosby, 34, recently moved in with his girlfriend and wanted something more stable.
“At my point in life it just made sense for where I’m going,” Cosby said.
Even if teaching and coaching is hectic, it’s steady. At the college basketball coaching level, draconian athletic directors can decide to “go another direction” on a whim and fire an entire coaching staff.
Cosby will start teaching at Weber High in the fall, so he’s not hanging up the apron just yet. But the Warriors’ boys basketball team is currently in a spring league. He said his team would hold a practice Monday before games Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We’re going to hit the ground running and see what we can do. And I have a parent meeting at the end of next week,” he said.
Cosby and Bonneville boys basketball coach Kyle Bullinger are also very familiar with each other, having been at Weber State at the same time when Bullinger was a player.
The Warriors ostensibly return senior post player Max Triplett (9.2 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) and rising junior guard Quinn Bennett (went off for 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting in a win over Fremont).
Weber finished fourth in Region 1 and lost to Pleasant Grove in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.
Until Cosby gets his full team together, he’s not sure what sort of system Weber’s going to run. But working at five college basketball programs over the last decade gives him a lot of options.
When he was at WSU, the Wildcats ran a lot of set plays. SLCC was more of a run-and-gun style and Westminster tries to create a ton of mismatches as well as go inside-out through the post players.
Cosby says he’s comfortable in X’s and O’s but knows that’s not the end-all.
“It’s more about toughness, it’s about buy-in, getting people to play hard. No matter what you run, if you don’t have that you’re going to struggle,” he said.