By Alex Napoles
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
The impact of the Kearns High boys basketball team on the state basketball tournament was one of the top stories of the 2014-2015 high school sports year. The Cougars not only made an unexpected run to the state title game before falling to Region 6 rival Bountiful, but their style of play in doing so raised the roof at the Dee Events Center.
The end results almost certainly raised the level of expectations in Kearns, but there may be no coach more ready to take that on that the Cougars’ head coach. Schools from all around heard about Kearns’ historical run this year. Everyone recognizes the efforts by Bushmen Ebet, Kur Kuath, Tayler Marteliz and all the other Kearns players, but people always overlook the gaffer, the man behind the project, Dan Cosby.
Cosby has been coaching Kearns basketball for five years. The coach’s relationship with the players played a big factor to the success of this group of Cougars.
“We have a very open and honest relationship,” Cosby said. “We are all one big family, and they see me as a father figure, as a brother and as a friend. I just tell them how it is, and that has to do with the honesty.”
Asked about his belief that his team would advance that deep into the tournament, Cosby had nothing but praise to his guys.
“I had a friend leave me a message, and the message stated ‘Cosby, I don’t think you understand what you got. You got a great and athletic team,’ and I remember the last thing he said,” Cosby said. “He said ‘Oh boy, look out,’ because I didn’t think we’d make it.”
Just like any great coach, Dan Cosby worked with the guys. He pointed out the flaws, and tried to improve them. He took a small team, and made them into state finalists. But just like every great team, they always have a low point in the season, and Cosby was open to share.
“I think we went four straight games losing,” Cosby said. Mautrice (Carter) went down and got hurt. Buay (Kuajian) was going through zero production. It was a tough time. At practice, even Buay told me ‘I don’t know what you want me to do coach,’ so I went on a one-on-one game with him. I was very physical and aggressive with him, and I think Buay was the missing link. We changed our mentality, we believed, and we made it to the state championship.”
The Cougars won 14-of-15 games following that four-game slide, with the only loss coming by six points to Bountiful. Along the way, it was their style of play that captured the fancy of the Kearns community, but it extended far beyond that. There was a huge infatuation with the way this group of players played the game and with the way Cosby coaches them.
Dan Cosby has been recognized as a great coach. His philosophy in one word – intense. And now Cosby has to replicate that intensity next year as new faces will come on board.
“We’re going to be young, inexperienced, and we’re starting all over,” Cosby said. “We will be learning how to play together. Because other guys will be hungry to reach that state championship again. It’s going to take hard work and hopefully they put in the work. Because that’s the goal. it’s all about the education.”