The search for a new women’s basketball coach at Dakota Ridge High School is over. The south Jefferson County school hired Berto Dryden following the departure of Keegan Bell, who is moving on to coach at Columbine High School.
In just his second year of coaching, Dryden hopes to improve every aspect of the Eagles — from bringing their record above .500 to returning them to the state tournament. Dryden was an assistant coach at Northfield High School in Denver last season, finishing with a record of 11-13 (MaxPreps).
The Eagles finished 11-13 as well in an up-and-down season that concluded with a playoff loss to Roosevelt High School in Johnstown. Dryden is proud to pick up where Bell left off and is confident the team is primed for success this year.
“I’ve been welcomed with open arms and it’s really appreciated,” Dryden said. “The opportunity to build a program… I see there’s talent there and there’s work that needs to be done. I just thought it was a great opportunity for me and a great opportunity to give back to the community.”
With a background largely rooted in training and skill development, Dryden, a former basketball player, was and is a trainer himself. In three years at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, he averaged 12.4 points, 3.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He was just 31 points shy of hitting 1,000 points — in only three seasons.
Despite those stats, the number that jumps out is on defense: 115 career steals. That’s fitting, considering Dryden said defense will be the Eagles’ “bread and butter” going forward.
Dakota Ridge Athletic Director Matt Heckel is fired up about Dryden.
“I am extremely excited to work with Coach Dryden, and he has great plans on rebuilding the Eagle program,” Heckel said. “When hiring, I’m not only hiring a coach for skills development, but more importantly I want a leader of young men and women that will represent the Dakota Ridge community. Everything I heard about and in my interactions with Coach Dryden gives me the feeling he is the leader we need.”
For info on Dryden’s approach, goals, and style, check out the Q&A below.
How would you describe your style as a coach?
In terms of style, I definitely like to play fast-paced. I like to play team basketball, and believe the system is bigger than any individual. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to make sure that no matter if we’re out-manned, undersized, or less athletic than the other team… it doesn’t really matter. We’re going to put in the work and attack adversity headfirst. That’s the type of person I am. I don’t back down from challenges; we’re not going to back down from challenges.
What are your first impressions of the team you’ll be taking over?
I’ve seen the roster. I’ve watched tons of film. We have a really good guard coming back. We have another senior coming back that’s going to have a great season. And even the juniors coming up, they just have a potential to really grow and develop, especially in the system we’ll be in.
Describe the system you’re envisioning for the Eagles?
I’ll see individual numbers take a leap. I’ll see team stats take a leap. We’re going to be hard-nosed on defense; that’s going to be our bread and butter this year. That’s going to be our identity going forward: a tough, defensive-minded team. When you play Dakota Ridge, it’s going to be a battle. I definitely want to get involved with the freshmen and even middle school players to get them developed early on as well.
How long does it take to establish a new culture?
That’s a great question. I think it starts day one. I think it started in the interview process. I was able to meet with two players during the interview; they got to ask me questions and I got to ask them questions. And they were two leaders of the team. So, just being able to have that conversation…I think is a good start. We can get on board as quickly as possible. Like I said, we’ll be a hard-nosed, hardworking team, but we’re also going to lean on each other and love on each other. That’s definitely important in building a program and building the identity as a team. We’re going to be a very selfless team. And it’s going to be evident from how we act on the bench to how we act when one of our players hits the ground.
What are some realistic goals for year one?
This year, if I have seniors that want to take it to the next stage, that’s my goal. I have to make sure I put them in the right positions to be able to go into the next stage and play. As a team, I want to make sure we’re improving. We definitely want to make it back to the state tournament. That’s a goal that I have and I know it’s a goal I know the team has. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it back to the state tournament. We also want to improve in the conference. Improvement all around. We want to make it back and try to make a run.
How has growing up on the East Coast shaped you as a coach and person?
I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York. I grew up in Woodstock, Georgia (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta). I think it’s definitely shaped me. I played tough basketball growing up. I dealt with my share of injuries growing up, and I’ve persevered through them all. I think that’s made me a tough person in general, but it’s also made me a loving person as well. I can empathize and sympathize with people, and just being able to connect with people. But that toughness, that eagerness to be successful, that eagerness to grow. Growing up in New York and Atlanta, you gotta fight for everything. So, I’ve been fighting, and I think we’ll have a scrappy team as well. It will be fun.