Brandon Laird, who has 18 years of coaching experience under his belt, completed his seventh season as Sacramento State’s associate head coach in 2018-19, and eighth 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 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.
Sacramento State won at least 13 games six times in the last seven seasons, the first time that has happened when the Hornets ran off seven straight seasons from 1966-73. In addition, the Hornets won Big Sky Tournament games four times in the last five years (2015-17, 2019). Prior to 2015, the program had won just two Big Sky Tournament games in its first 18 years in the conference. In addition, the team has posted three conference records of .500 or better during Laird’s tenure after the program had done so just twice in the 27 years prior to his arrival.
The Hornets have also established a homecourt advantage that has seen the program post a 67-30 combined record (.690 winning percentage) inside the Nest over the last seven years. Also, during that time, the team is 42-24 (.636) at home against conference competition.
The Hornets’ overall record of 21-12 during the 2014-15 season 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 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 2015 Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets made an appearance in 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 2015 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.
Laird also helped coach guard Mikh McKinney, who was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP in 2015. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the fourth player in school history to earn All-America honors.
Off the court, the Hornets have excelled in the classroom during Laird’s tenure. In fact, as of May of 2019, the Hornets are the only men’s basketball team from a public school in the state of California to earn NCAA Public Recognition honors. The award is given annually to institutions for having Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores that rank among the top 10 percent nationally. Not only are the Hornets the only public school in the state to achieve the award, they have received the honor three straight years (2017-19).
In addition, the Hornets have posted a term grade point average of better than 3.0 six times in the last 10 semesters. Currently, the Hornets have a team overall grade point average of 3.045. Prior to the start of the run of 3.0 term grade point averages in 2014, the men’s basketball program had never posted a 3.0 gpa during any semester in school history.
Perhaps the most impressive of the academic accolades - of the 25 Hornets that have expired their eligibility during Laird’s tenure, 24 have graduated.
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.
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 married in 2015, and he and his wife, Sarah, currently live in Sacramento.