Brandon Laird, who has 15 years of coaching experience under his belt, completed his fourth season as Sacramento State’s associate head coach in 2015-16, and fifth as a member of the Hornet coaching staff (assistant coach in 2011-12).
Laird is the program’s recruiting coordinator while also assisting with on-floor coaching, day-to-day player administration, scouting, academics, player development, compliance and offseason workouts.
The Hornets have shown major progress since Laird came aboard as evidence by the team improving its conference win total each of his first four years with the program, culminating in the 2014-15 squad posting a 21-12 overall record, a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference, the team’s first postseason appearance in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the program’s first postseason victory in 53 years.
The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era that Sacramento State finished above the .500 mark, and first time since the 1988-89 season. In addition, the 21 wins were tied for second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference victories were the most in school history (regardless of conference). All of this from a program that had entered the 2014-15 season with just three winning seasons in the previous 38 years.
After reaching the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets qualified for the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the first time the program had qualified for a postseason event since the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament, and just the fifth postseason appearance in school history. Sacramento State’s 73-66 victory at Portland in the first round of the CIT marked the first time in 53 years the Hornets had won a postseason game.
The Hornets were ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Poll for the first time in school history (ranking as high as 14th), and the team finished just one game back of first place in the Big Sky standings, narrowly missing out on the program’s first conference championship since 1977. Sacramento State also won nine straight home games at one point, and completed the year with a 13-2 home record, tied for the most home wins in program history (1948-pres.).
In fact, the team set Div. I-era school records (1991-pres.) in points scored (2,342), field goals made (841), field goal percentage (.486), 3-point field goal percentage (.408), free throw percentage (.736), assists (466) and assists per game (14.1). The Hornets finished among the top 10 teams in the nation in both 3-point field goal percentage (4th) and field goal percentage (8th).
Laird also helped coach senior guard Mikh McKinney, who was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the third player in school history to earn All-America honors.
Though the team went 14-17 overall and 6-12 in the Big Sky during a 2015-16 rebuilding season, the Hornets have now won at least 14 games four consecutive years after reaching the 14-win plateau just once the 22 previous years.
Off the court, the Hornets have excelled in the classroom during Laird’s tenure where the Hornets have posted a team grade point average of better than 3.0 three times in the last four semesters. Prior to the start of that run in the spring of 2014, the men’s basketball program had never posted a 3.0 gpa during any semester in school history. The team currently has a cumulative grade point average of 3.02.
The program showed signs of taking off in 2013-14 when the Hornets not only posted a then school-record 10 conference wins, the team also clinched a Big Sky Tournament berth for the first time since 2006 and won 11 home games. One of the season’s highlights included Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot shot at the buzzer to defeat Weber State, and instantly gain national exposure for the program. Video of the shot went viral and was named the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that evening.
Prior to Sacramento State, Laird spent two years (2009-11) as an assistant at UC Davis where he worked with the guards and assisted in recruiting, scouting and on-floor coaching. In 2009-10, he helped coach the Aggies to 14 overall wins and eight Big West Conference victories, both high water marks for UC Davis since the program joined the Div. I ranks.
Before arriving at UC Davis, Laird spent three years as head coach at Menlo College (2006-09). He led the Oaks to 18 victories in 2007-08, which were the most for the program since 1990. That team also won a school-record tying nine games in a row, won the Cal-Pac Conference Tournament and advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the third time in school history. Menlo also finished that season with a school-record 13 conference wins and a No. 29 national ranking.
Prior to becoming head coach, the Sacramento native spent three years as an assistant with Menlo (2003-06) where he helped rebuild a program that went 4-22 his first season to 17-11 in his third year. Also during his tenure as assistant, the Oaks defeated a pair of Div. II programs, and his recruiting efforts landed six high school players and four junior college players prior to the 2004-05 season.
His first collegiate coaching experience took place at UC Davis where Laird served on the staff during the 2002-03 season. He spent the previous year (2001-02) as an assistant at his high school alma mater (El Camino).
A graduate of UC Davis, Laird played four seasons with the Aggies (1997-01). During his four-year tenure, he appeared in 85 games and helped the Aggies to a combined record of 93-24, including a 31-2 mark in 1997-98 when they captured the Division II national title. He was the recipient of the Captain’s Award (voted on by teammates) following the 2000-01 season.
Laird graduated from UC Davis in 2001 with a degree in managerial economics and then added a master’s degree in 2005 from the United States Sports Academy.
Laird was married on May 30, 2015, and he and his wife, Sarah, currently live in Sacramento.