By Drew Costley
LaBryan Thomas, head coach of George Mason High School’s girls varsity basketball team, was chosen as the girls basketball coach of the year by The Washington Post. The Post selected Thomas, senior forward Stephanie Cheney, and sophomore forward Katie Goodwin to the All-Met team, which highlights top athletic talent in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. Cheney was named to the fourth team and Goodwin was an honorable mention.
“It’s a great honor,” Thomas said, “especially with that group of girls. All those girls are going to high-powered schools and, hey, you can’t get better than a great honor.”
Thomas, who has coached youth sports for more than 20 years, became the Mustangs’ head coach during the 2008-09 season. He led the Mustangs to a single-A state championship in his first two seasons and has taken the team to at least the state semifinals every year he’s been head coach of the girls varsity basketball program. The Mustangs’ record is 121-25 with Thomas at the helm.
Mustang sophomore guard Ava Roth said Thomas deserves the honor even though the team was stopped short of a state championship this season, falling in the semifinals to eventual championship winner Floyd County High School.
“I was really happy when I found out. I was really proud of him,” Roth said. “Although we did not win the state championship, he did a really a good job of coaching us throughout the season.”
On the road to the state semifinals this year, the Mustangs were consistently beating opponents by more than 20 points, which may have led to a more relaxed demeanor towards opponents. To counter that possibility, Thomas and his team captains made focus a central theme of the team’s preparation for games.
“Even at the end of the season when we started to have a lot more fun and goof off, he kept us focused,” Roth said.
Cheney was the lone returning starter from last year’s state championship-winning team this season. Still, Thomas knew early on in the season that the team could be just as competitive as they were the year before.
“The fact that he stayed with us, I thought, showed his true character and that he believed in us no matter what,” Roth said.
Thomas said earlier this season that he was thinking about how much assistant coaches – like Kyle Evans and Peggy Barnes and his current staff of Mike Gilroy, Lori LaFave, and Svetlana Pankratova –have contributed to the program’s success in recent years. He said it’s good to have coaches who are all on the same page about the direction of the team and program.
“I’ve been lucky. I had a great coaching staff,” Thomas said. “It’s been great. I couldn’t have gotten where I am now without them.”
Thomas said he was proud of Cheney and Goodwin being named to the All-Met team as well.
“When you have two high-caliber players that make the All-Met team,” Thomas said. “It shows a lot for your program.”