Coming full circle

Andrew Towne/Torrington Telegram Niobrara County High School graduate Clint Landon draws up a play for Torrington’s Mattie Jones (10) and Kemmerer’s Olivia Nielson (32) during a timeout in the second half of Saturday’s Wyoming Coaches Association All-Star basketball game in Casper.

NCHS alum coaches in WCA All-Star basketball game

CASPER – On Saturday at the Wyoming Coaches Association All-Star basketball game, 2004 Niobrara County High School alum Clint Landon got to take part in coaching the South squad in his first-time coaching in an all-star game.

After the game, he talked about his coaching career coming full circle.

“When we were having our banquet, there were a lot of coaches who talked about coming full circle. I was very blessed to have Rich Murray and Dennis Zowada as my high school coaches,” Landon said. “Honestly, it was full circle.”

It was Murray and Zowada who sparked an interest in coaching for Landon.

“Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better guys to learn from. That full circle thing of being in that area going to college, but it all started in Lusk,” Landon said. “I was blessed to grow up in a community that valued our education and athletics. It was priority. We were taught the right way from really good coaches and how to do things.”

Landon eventually got into officiating during college, but it didn’t take long for him to get into coaching after college when his college roommate Kyle Cotton called on him to be an assistant at Lingle-Fort Laramie High School.

Since then, he spent a number of years at Torrington High School coaching with AJ Gross, Mark Lenhardt and Russell Stienmetz. He was a part of the staff which won a boys’ state championship in 2012 with the Blazers.

In the summer of 2015, Landon left Torrington to join Green River High School as an academic coordinator for the school. At the time, there was opening for an assistant boys and girls basketball coach. The boys’ opening filled, and that’s when Green River head coach Rick Carroll asked him to join his staff.

“We hit it off ever since. Him and I are on the same page,” Landon said. “I love working for him. He just got an award (Friday) night for 40 years of high school coaching in Wyoming. You couldn’t ask for a better guy to learn from.”

On Saturday, he was able to come full circle by coaching in one of the summer’s top all-star games with and against some of the best players in the state of Wyoming.

When the final horn sounded, it was the South squad led by Landon, Carroll and Mountain View coach Jessica Moretti coming out on top 53-45.

He was selected to coach in the game by Moretti, and her assistants couldn’t help out last week, so she turned to the Green River duo of Landon and Carroll.

“You have to ask someone from a different classification,” Landon said. “She was 3A and Rick Carroll was 4A.”

Over the course of the four days in Casper, it was about bringing a team together in a short amount of time.

“We were blessed on our side. Four of them had played in the Wyoming and Montana All-Star games, so they already had a little bit of a relationship,” Landon said. “These guys bonded instantly. It wasn’t hard. Any rivalries went right out the door, and they just wanted to win it. It was like we had been with them all year. It was an easy transition based on the kids and the high character they had.”

That helped lead to the eight-point victory over the North.

Another aspect of coming full circle for Landon was getting to coach Torrington duo of Reece Halley and Mattie Jones.

“It was cool to have that Torrington connection. Jeff Halley and Mike McNamee officiated my wedding. It was neat moment to have someone, who is one of my best friends officiate my wedding, have his daughter playing. I’ve also known Grant and Lyda Jones for a long time. It was a cool tie in where we won a state championship with the boys and had many great years,” Landon said. “From coach Gross, Stienmetz, Lenhardt and Mark Sims, they have shaped me as the coach I am today. And Jeff too. Jeff was a big part of it to, and I still ask him stuff to this day. The tie in back to Torrington and having Reece and Mattie is a testament to the coaches they have and the school they went to and the community. They are great kids and fun to coach. It was a nice addon bonus to coach some of my best friends’ kids.”

Now, Landon and his wife Shauri are loving life in the western part of the state, and they don’t see themselves going anywhere anytime soon.

“My wife and I love living in that community, and we have a good support system in the community and school. It’s a great environment. We haven’t looked to go anywhere else, and coaching, I couldn’t ask for a better place. I love the kids we coach and the community support,” Landon said. “I love what I do. Coaching kids is one of the best things. Wins and losses is one thing, but as I get older, you go to their weddings and things like that is the funniest thing for us. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the education and coaching I got in Niobrara County.”