Pat Bridges of Lawrence County is the Coach of the Year

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, April 16, 2022

For the last 14 seasons, Pat Bridges has been making an impact on the young men that come through his Lawrence County boys’ basketball program.

A former Cougar hooper himself, Bridges is a native of Silver Creek who has a vested interest in seeing Lawrence County High School succeed in not just basketball, but in all areas of education.

Both he and his wife Cassie serve on the Board of Alderman for the town of Silver Creek. Like him, Cassie is an alum of LCHS and she currently serves as principal of Rod Page Middle School in Monticello. 

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When the Lawrence County girls’ team was playing this season, you could catch him the bleachers with his wife and youngest daughter Laicie as they cheered on his oldest, Jordyn, who was a senior guard for LC.

His 2021-2022 boys’ team exceeded expectations as they won 11 games in a row during the season, finished with a 9-1 record in Region 7-4A and finished 18-10 on the year. For his efforts in leading the Cougars, Bridges has been named The Daily Leader 2022 All-Area Coach of the Year for boys’ basketball.

It was nice bounce-back season after Bridge’s team limped to a 6-7 finish in 2020-2021 as the school had much of its season cancelled by COVID-19 related issues.

In 2017-2018, Bridges had 20-win team that took the Region 7-4A regular season crown. Perhaps his best team in his time coaching the Cougars was the 2014-2015 group that won 21 games and lost to Indianola-Gentry in the 4A quarterfinals.

Future Mississippi State basketball signee KeyShawn Feazell was a sophomore on that team. Bridges knows what it’s like to coach an SEC talent like Feazell and have your practices filled with college coaches that are trying to recruit your best player.

Feazell went on to transfer to McNeese State and then Creighton University, where he started for the Blue Jays last month in an NCAA tournament game against the University of Kansas.

At a school like Lawrence County that’s made up of kids from small communities scattered through the county, you’re not always going to have a 6-foot-9 player like Feazell or a future 7-footer like LC alum and Mississippi State great Erik Dampier.

This year’s team embodied the type of team that Bridges puts forth most years. The Cougars didn’t have much height, so their points came primarily through guard play.

With that lack of size, everyone had to rebound together in order to keep opponents off the glass. The Cougars liked to play fast as they could scramble to the ball in a zone defense in the half court and a full-court trap.

When they possess the ball, LC will slow things down and hunt a good shot. Bridges played point guard when he was taking the court and his relationship with his ball handlers is always among the closest on his team, such as it was this year with All-Area guard Jaheim Ball.

It’s never a one-size fits all style of coaching from Bridges. His teams always have a slightly different style of play depending on the personnel for that season.

It’s apparent that the Cougars plays hard for Bridges and his assistant coach Joshua Milton. Junior guard Trey Jones says his coach creates a culture focused on improvement as his players progress through a season and a career.

“What makes him such a good coach is that he continually encourages us to develop our skills,” said Jones. “He also makes us aware of our weaknesses as a team and we work to improve them every day. He’s not only involved in what we do on the court, he makes sure we’re succeeding in the classroom as well. Coach Bridges is able to create chemistry within the team by understanding everyone’s individual personalities — that connection makes it easy to play hard for him.”