In early June, Brady Hammond was preparing for another season as the boys basketball coach at Smithville. Now he finds himself working in a makeshift office in Belton High School break room preparing to guide the Pirates’ basketball program and athletic department.
And his head is still spinning.
“The whirlwind is still going and I don’t think it’s going to get any slower,” Hammond said. “But I’m used to being busy.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Hammond and for Belton, which found itself without an athletic director and a boys basketball coach when John Schaefer left in May to become boys basketball coach at Logan-Rogersville. In the week before last Monday’s opening day of fall sports practice, Hammond was closing on a new house and learning his way around his new community and athletic department.
And so far, he likes what he sees.
“I didn’t know much about Belton specifically, but since coming here man I’m so excited,” Hammond said. “There’s so many cool things about Belton.”
Hammond, 30, is more familiar with the Northland and Liberty, where he moved to during his freshman year in high school. He played basketball at Liberty High School and eventually wound up at Smithville after graduating from Missouri.
He was getting ready for his third season at Smithville when the Belton opening caught his eye. Becoming an administrator was one of his goals, and the move south would place him closer to his wife’s family in Lee’s Summit.
So Hammond applied, and just as he was getting ready to coach his Smithville team in a summer league game, he got a phone call.
“I saw it was from Belton, so I said I have to take and my assistant filled in for me while I stepped out,” Hammond said. “It’s been a whirlwind ever since. It’s been crazy.”
It’s also been difficult at times, especially when he had to make a sudden goodbye at Smithville
“I love Smithville,” Hammond said. “It wasn’t like I was desperately searching to get out, but I told them I was looking to get into administration. This job just opened up and it seemed to be a perfect fit and in a part of town that would be good for our family.”
Hammond will fit into both roles filled by Schaefer, who left after three seasons for a job closer to friends and family in the Springfield area. And in both roles, he’s jumping into projects that are already well under way.
Schaefer helped make Belton one of the top teams in the Suburban Blue Conference in his time there. Last year the Pirates finished 16-9 overall and third in conference with a 7-3 mark. But that was a senior-heavy team, and with a summer shortened by the transition to his new role, he hasn’t had much time to evaluate what talent he has coming in yet.
“This year’s team is going to be a lot different than last year’s team,” Hammond said. “I’m a new coach and we’ve got mostly new players. It’s a new team. So I’m not worried about what they did last year, I’m just worried about finding our identity now and then working to be our very best every single day.”
Schaefer also left Hammond an athletic program on a recent upswing after several years of mediocrity. The football team has gone from two- and three-win seasons to playing in a Class 5 district title game in four seasons under coach Todd Vaughn. The girls basketball team made the Class 5 state quarterfinals two years ago, the softball team has been a district titlist and finalist the last two seasons and the wrestling program crowned two state champions last season.
“The kids have bought in and we have good coaches here,” Hammond said. “I can go on and on about the quality coaches we have. They are doing great work and putting kids first. That’s the biggest thing.”
Those kids and coaches will soon get to enjoy better facilities, thanks to a $20 million, no-tax-increase bond issue Belton School District voters approved last spring. That money will be used to build a new fieldhouse, an aquatics center and erect lights for the baseball and softball fields along with other projects. The softball field lights will be ready for use this season.
“We’ve got great facilities and we’ve got even better facilities coming in,” Hammond said.
The new gym and pool won’t be ready for a couple of years, and Hammond hopes he’ll still be the one running the athletic department when they’re. He just closed on a house in Belton, and he’s looking to put down roots in the community.
And possibly get a breather soon.
“I like being busy, but once I get established here I am looking forward to things slowing down a little bit,” Hammond said.