An interview with Coach of the Year Bryce Brickhouse

Bryce Brickhouse has been the coach of the Walker Varsity Boys Basketball team since 2012. This year, he won his second Coach of the Year Award (the first in 2016), and Moustapha Diop earned Player of the Year for GHSA AA Region 6. 

We spoke with Coach Brickhouse before the State Tournament about his time at Walker and this year’s team, which entered the Region Tournament as the #1 seed, after winning the regular-season Region Championship. Unfortunately, the Wolverines were eliminated from the State Championship Tournament on Saturday, after losing at Athens Academy in the Sweet Sixteen. While the loss stings, it doesn’t negate the Wolverines’ strong season. 

What does it mean to be Coach of the Year? 
Coach Brickhouse: Coach of the Year means consistent hard work night in and night out, when people are watching, when people aren’t watching. But the acronym COY, I really do believe it’s Community of the Year because although the award falls under my name, without everyone doing their jobs from administrators to teachers to staff to players, parents, if everyone doesn’t do their job, you don’t get a Coach of the Year/ Community of the Year award. That’s what this community is, and I’m glad to be a part of it. 

What was your team like in 2016 when you first won the award? 
Coach Brickhouse: Four of the five starters are playing college basketball right now, so again, the community was great then, and the players were great then, so the bi-product was Coach of the Year. (Those playing in college from that team are: Burke Chebuhar – Lehigh University; Chandler Baker – Colgate University; Omar Cooper – McNeese State University and C.J. Newell – DePaul University). 

What does it mean to you to have former players in college?
Coach Brickhouse: For a basketball coach it means everything because of all of the hard work and effort that you’re pouring into these young men. Many dream of playing Division I college basketball. That group of players, I get to watch them on TV right now. I get to see them on social media. We text back and forth, so there's a bit of satisfaction there to know that that’s what those guys wanted to do when they came through the community at Walker and were taught by teachers and high-fived with staff and people came to games. It means everything to watch them catch their dreams they had as young boys. 

Another one of our players is playing professionally. Robert Baker is playing for the College Park Skyhawks, a GLeague affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks. He played overseas for a number of years and left Japan in September. I got to watch him play a couple of weeks ago. Harvard grad. He said he’s got about two to three more years of professional basketball and then he’s going to try to get himself into the NBA front office, so that would be awesome. He’s a great young man. He was the beginning of my tenure here when I started in 2012. That group was good and they believed in what we were telling them and buying what we were selling – consistently do the right things over and over again. They built the foundation. We always talk about a house. The earlier groups laid the foundation, and these guys (2023-24 team)  are putting in the rooms and windows and attic. It’s awesome.

You talk about what you’re selling to players. What is that?
Coach Brickhouse: We talk about being good people, about being good citizens. The basketball part is important, but being a better person and a better citizen and loving your neighbor and whoever is around, that’s more important than dribbling a ball. But if you’re doing those things off the court, then dribbling the ball is going to come easy because you’ve got the talent you were born with. You put the hard work with the talent, and you’ve got some of our awesome athletes. We’re just trying to teach them to be young men, be responsible and be on time and that’s the consistent part that we are selling and that kids are buying and our administration is buying. 

The administration allows me to be who I am, and it’s easy for a group of young men to follow what we do because I don’t have to be fake about anything. As long as the administration and community allow me to do that, I expect our young men to keep growing and being consistent figures around the hallways and in the community. That’s how I was raised to be. All I can sell them is myself and what our program is about. People who come through the Primary School, Lower School and Middle School, they know what we’re about by the time they get to Upper School. And the people who hear about us and come from other schools, the people who are already here are the culture. The new people either want to be a part of it or they don’t. 

You have an impact far beyond the basketball court. Why do you think that is? (Note to readers: Coach Brickhouse is incredibly humble, so talking about himself is one of the last things he wants to do.) 
Coach Brickhouse: I talk about treating others like you would like to be treated. It doesn’t matter your position here at school or anywhere in the community. Everyone is a person. Everyone bleeds the same. Everyone breathes the same. That’s what I was taught. No one is bigger than the next person. It doesn't matter your position. We’re all human. 

What differentiates Walker’s basketball program? 
Coach Brickhouse: There's no place in the Atlanta Metro like The Walker School, especially from a diversity piece, from a caring piece – substance – and that’s the part that’s different. (As he looks at the weight room from his office): We also have everything here that an athlete needs to get better and develop so that when it’s time to get seen, they’re ready for that opportunity. That’s exactly what our program is about. 

Talk to us about 2023-24 GHSA AA Region 6 Player of the Year Moustapha Diop.
Coach Brickhouse: Moustapha (who is from Senegal) is a fascinating young man. His mom and his late father have raised an awesome, humble young man. We were alerted about Moustapha when he was in eighth grade from his travel coach who also coached Walker alums Robert and Chandler Baker. Coach G asked if we took students from overseas. He said “there’s a young man who’s really good at basketball and speaks four languages. Would you be interested?” I said first of all, he sounds like a good student and also a good athlete, sign us up. I brought it to Mrs. Harrison (Director of Admission) who has been ultra supportive of me and our program, and she said let’s look at it. Moustapha speaks French, Spanish and Wolof (predominant language in Senegal). English was his worst language. To start off, it was hard to coach him. The classroom was hard, so our foreign language teachers would translate things into Spanish and French so he could understand, and he’s learned English from our teachers and from music. That was his introduction to America. He’s a lot braver than me. 

His maturation has been a flash from the day he was dropped off to today – as a student, as a player, as a person. I think the community at Walker has done wonders for this young man and taken him in and supported him. And I think he’s done wonders for The Walker School with his humbleness and his willingness to want to be here. We talk about backup plans, and he wants to be a dentist after he plays in the NBA and send money back to his mom in Senegal. He’s being recruited by the biggest schools in the country. A lot of it is about relationships, and he is a relationship-oriented person. I assume wherever he goes, he will have a great relationship with the head coach, coaches and players. He’s done wonders. He’s the No. 1 player in the class of 2026 in the state of Georgia. He’s the No. 6 ranked player in the country in the Class of 2026, and he’s just a sophomore. 

We are blessed to have him, and I think he is blessed to have us

What do you hope your players remember about your relationship with them?
Coach Brickhouse: That I was someone they could talk to and that I was someone who would listen. If the players that played for me will come back and just say hi or come back and watch the younger generation play or say that I was fair, that would be the greatest thing they could do. I want to be known as fair. I want to be known as a person who actually cares about the person and not the ability of the person. If I were to die tomorrow I would hope whoever was doing the eulogy could say that I cared about people and forget the other stuff like Coach of the Year. I hope they can say he tried his darndest to be the best father, the best husband, the best co-worker, that’s what it’s about. I hope that’s the impact. That’s the reason why I’m here. 
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