Dusty Brittain is accomplishing his goal.
Despite being unable to end Copperas Cove’s playoff drought in his first season as head coach, Brittain gave the Bulldawgs something they have not possessed in some time — hope.
With a victory against Harker Heights and a Killeen upset of Temple, the Bulldawgs would have finished the regular season in a tie with the Wildcats — a team Copperas Cove beat 10-0 on Tuesday — for District 8-5A’s fourth and final playoff berth.
The scenario, however, did not play out and the Bulldawgs’ streak of missing the playoffs grew to six consecutive seasons, but Brittain believes the culture at Copperas Cove is changing, and the program is beginning to blossom.
On Sunday, Brittain talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington about his feelings regarding the team’s 13-11-1 season and what to expect from the Bulldawgs in 2015.
Overall, how do you feel your first season at Copperas Cove went?
Obviously, we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to, which was getting to the playoffs, but I think there are a lot of good things. We just have to continue to keep working and see if we can’t be even better next year.
After struggling for several years, the team had something to play for on the last day of the season. How important is that for the team’s collective mentality?
We talked about that. There are tons of teams in the state of Texas who were not playing for anything in their last game, and we had a chance. It is just a mentality. The kids feel like they can compete every single game. When you feel like you have a chance going into every single game, that is huge.
How critical is it to have changed the mindset and have the players believing in themselves?
I think it helps. It really helps. It helps with our younger kids, especially. Now, they know that we are on the right track. We are working to get where we need to be, so I think their mindset next year is going to be that there is no reason why we shouldn’t make it to the playoffs. Just like there is no reason we shouldn’t win.
Your seniors were a big reason why the team was so successful this year. What did they mean to the team?
They’ve been huge, especially for me as a first-year guy. You need that good supporting cast of seniors to help lead and be able to bounce ideas off them and talk to them. I could have them talk to people — the kids when they got down, younger guys especially. They’ve just been huge for me, and they’ve been a big part of this program for a long time, so I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch.
You’ve still got a lot of young guys coming back. How do you feel about next season’s team?
There are a lot of quality baseball players coming back. We have a lot of different shoes to fill here and there, but it is nice to have guys on the roster that have varsity experience and experience at winning. They also have the experience of playing close games that we had to have. Whether we won or lost them, they played in them, and that is going to be big for us. Being able to have those guys that when we do move kids up — the younger groups — they have someone to look up to and somebody to lead them.
So, would you say you are satisfied with the position you’ve been able to put the program in since arriving?
Obviously, I’m not satisfied with not making the playoffs because that is my ultimate goal, but I think we are on the right track. A few breaks here and there, and things could be totally different. Maybe we are still playing.