RED ROCK – The first time Brett Tahah met her new team, she gave it a wake-up call.
The first-year Frontier High girls basketball coach didn’t shy away from the fact that this was the first time meeting many of the Lady Mustangs. She didn’t mind that the team was coming off of a state runner-up season.
Tahah told the Lady Mustangs that even with all of the success from a year ago, her regime would be different and it would start with defense – something she and the players agree was lacking.
“‘I know you can score, but can we play defense? Are we going to sacrifice our body? Are we going to block out? Are we going to work to get a stop and get to that next level? Defense is what is going to take us to that gold ball,’” Tahah said in her speech.
It was a shock for many of the girls, who under former coach Eric Smith had run a frenzied offense that could outrun and outgun other teams in shootouts, no matter how many points they gave up. For Tahah, coming from a Class 4A school in Elgin, she said the offense wouldn’t get them past the three-time defending state champion in Seiling if it came down to that again.
The players weren’t afraid of the approach, though, and have taken it head on to good results in the young coach’s inaugural season.
“We do a lot of lifting in the mornings and stuff,” senior Morgan Romero said. “That was hard since I’m not used to waking up that early at 6:45. … We do like a bunch of different station work like form shooting, ball handling and defense.”
Tahah’s philosophy is to use that defense to stifle opponents so that on nights that the shots aren’t falling, the Lady Mustangs don’t have to rely solely on offense.
“We don’t want to go out and outscore everybody,” Tahah said. “That has been my philosophy everywhere I have been. I want to hold a team under 40 points because if we hold them under 40 points, there aren’t that many people that will beat us.”
In her experience, Tahah believes that defense is the true measure of a champion. Even in the geography of Class A where a lot of teams ride or die by the 3-point shot, Tahah knows that defense still is the true equalizer.
Not only is her coaching philosophy different than what the players know, but she also has a different style from the bench during games as senior Shelby Black attests.
“She is really honest with us,” Black said. “I got pulled for not passing it to Marilyn (Goodman) when she was open the other night whereas last year, I would get pulled and wouldn’t know why since coach wouldn’t tell me and I was thinking about it the whole time. With her, she tells me what is wrong.”
The players like how Tahah is like a mother for them, because for many of them she is the first female coach they have had. As a mother of two, herself, Tahah feels she has a good relationship with the players, as well.
“It is about building relationships and I tell them all the time that I am here for them more than basketball,” Tahah said. “I care about them, I care about their future. I ask them daily what they are thinking and where they are wanting to go. I have three seniors who would love to go play basketball or softball at the next level and two that want to go to college and maybe want to play. That they want to talk to me about stuff like that means a lot because I want to impact their lives any way that I can in a positive way.”
Tahah is a family coach. Her children, Zoey, 2, and Maddox, 1, are a big part of her life and coaching as Maddox, whose birthday is Thursday, made his first appearance hours after Tahah’s season opener last year.
With her husband, Scott, who also has a job at Frontier and is an assistant for both her and for legendary boys basketball coach Bob Weckstein, Tahah likes the setup at Frontier as it is a life she has been dreaming of for a while.
Growing up in Fort Cobb and graduating from Hobart, she knows the small school basketball life and it’s part of the reason she wanted to come at Frontier.
In her two-year stint at Elgin, she led the Lady Owls to the state semifinals last season before losing to eventual champion Fort Gibson and was named the Lawton Constitution’s All-Area Coach of the Year.
Tahah played college ball at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, before going into the coaching business and she has enjoyed every stop. When Weckstein – the school superintendent – reached out to her after Smith departed for Dale, Tahah said the tradition brought her to Frontier.
“Whenever I think of Frontier, it has always been basketball,” Tahah said. “I have dreamed my whole life of living in a basketball community. This is what kids want to do and for me, it is a coach’s dream because this is what kids want to do and grow up wanting to play here and win a gold ball. I feel like this is one of the best jobs in the state and am glad Coach Weckstein gave me the opportunity to come in and coach.”
Tahah, who is also the athletic director, sees herself ingrained in the community for years to come and is already starting to think of how the program will be down the line. Although the Lady Mustangs made news last season making it to the Big House and the state finals with only eight players, she has gotten a lot of younger players out now to where there are 15 on the roster.
For the seniors, it was a big transition having to learn to rely on other players, but like it has been since Day 1 under Tahah, they have swallowed their pride and made it work, ultimately finding it has helped them more than they ever knew.
“It is a big help and when we are tied, we get a breather now with someone who is taking our place that we have confidence in that they will make plays,” Goodman said. “We don’t have to worry about taking a 30-second break and hopping back in unlike last year.”
The transition has been seamless with the Lady Mustangs off to a 2-0 start, only allowing more than 40 points once and that was in a 65-41 win against Ripley. The players are enjoying the family aspect and overall feel that will be the difference this season and for years to come.
“I want to be able to show that our team plays with heart and energy because that is the driving force of how we are going to get the gold ball,” Black said.
For Tahah, the job is a coach’s dream to be at a basketball-rich school like Frontier where it is the biggest show in town and she feels that the players buying into her has made her first season even better so far.
“You just build a relationship with the kids,” Tahah said. “These kids here love the game and I can’t keep them out of the gym. They are wanting to win a gold ball because they felt they left it on the floor last year. Our mentality this year it to earn it every day, nothing is given.”
Follow News Press sports Jordan Bishop on Twitter @Jordanbishop35 for updates on area high school athletics.