By Shawn Stinson
CHARLESTON – Former Pendleton County boys basketball coach Ryan Lambert stepped away from the sidelines before the start of this season when he accepted the principal position at Brandywine Elementary School.
Lambert secured one final notch in his coaching belt, being named as the West Virginia Coach of the Year for boys basketball by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission for the 2020-2021 season.
“The award was never a goal,” Lambert said. “I was blessed to have a group who bought into our culture and brand. This award is a result of that and we could not be more humbled or proud. Our culture was built on the intangibles we could control every single night. Our non-negotiable expectation was that we would be the more disciplined team who always set the tone with effort. This was a special group and this award is the cherry on top.”
Lambert guided his 2019-2020 squad to a perfect 23-0 season and qualified for a berth in the Class A state tournament. Officials were forced to cancel the tournament due to the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wildcats extended the winning streak to 40 games and advanced to the Class A championship game in the 2020-2021 season. Pendleton had its winning streak snapped in a loss to Man in Charleston.
“It was a great two-year run where the community was absolutely wonderful and supported us,” Lambert said. “There was a buzz around the excitement and special time and special seasons we had. It is also a celebration of the culture that we created on those squads.”
Lambert also credited having talented players in the program who were willing to sacrifice their own statistics for the good of the team.
“You have to have special kids who are dedicated, who have the buy in and are willing to do all the extra and then be coachable and do everything you ask of them,” he said. “It was a special, special group and experience in two years.”
Lambert was selected to coach in the West Virginia Athletic Director Association’s North-South All-Star Classic. Lambert led the North Bears to a 105-104 victory. Lambert coached three of his Pendleton players – Josh Alt, Isaiah Gardiner and Bailey Thompson in the contest.