One of the most fascinating boys basketball teams this past season was Bear River High.
The Bears shot 50 percent as a team, 42 percent from 3-point range, didn’t start a player taller than 6 feet, hardly went deeper than a six-player rotation, won 21 games and came five points away from beating Sky View in the 4A state title game.
They did with an unmatched grit and competitiveness — as well as smart-enough defense to stay out of foul trouble when the rotation featured so few players — that impressed a lot of coaches.
“A coach’s responsibility is to put those kids in the best position possible to win or be competitive. We had some good ball handlers and good shooters, but knowing that we were going to be outsized every game, you just got to get your kids to believe, ‘That’s fine, no problem, we’re going to do what we can do to be successful,’” head coach Scott Hunt said.
You can be outsized, he said, but he emphasized to his players that you cannot get “out-toughed.”
Another person who was also impressed: Roy High athletic director Mike Puzey.
Puzey saw the Bears play at Roy in early January, a seemingly innocuous non-region game the Royals won 74-70 after surviving a hot-shooting second half from Bear River.
Hunt and Puzey will see a lot more of each other going forward. Puzey confirmed Tuesday that Hunt had accepted the school’s boys basketball head coaching job late Monday and will also be a school counselor at Roy starting this fall.
“I couldn’t be happier with Scott being hired as our coach. He is, in our book, a game-changer for Roy High basketball. That’s absolutely the truth,” Puzey said.
In Hunt’s six seasons as BRHS head coach, the Bears went 100-49, including a Region 11 championship in 2015 along with this season’s state runner-up finish.
Previous stops in Hunt’s coaching career have been even more successful. He’s coached four teams to state championships starting with Panguitch in 1998, and South Sevier in 2006, 2011 and 2012.
One reason for the move is so Hunt can be closer to his daughter and grandkids. Another reason for the change is for the challenge of taking on ostensibly better competition at the 6A level (Roy is moving from 5A to 6A next season).
Hunt said one reason this year’s Bear River team was so good was because the Bears were gritty, competitive and played hard no matter what type of system they were in. Many high school coaches don’t adhere to one system or style of play, stemming from the natural turnover of high school sports and the different kinds of players that circulate each year.
For instance: Hunt said the Bears started the season playing a switching man-to-man defense but, as they faced bigger teams that exploited mismatches, he switched to a matchup zone.
In practice, he said that “99 percent of the time” the team practiced and drilled with a man-to-man defense.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll do it all if I feel like an adjustment we can make will help us win a game,” said Hunt, who will be in his 35th year of coaching.
The Royals finished 6-15 overall last year, went 2-8 in Region 5 and saw head coach Terry Schriver resign in the middle of the season.