Behind the lines…Bryan and Bob…legends beyond the hardwood

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    Legend is a word used to describe someone much too often these days. A person becomes a legend when they dedicate their life to a cause, are stalwart, unwavering, and dedicated beyond normal human measure.

    When the term “legend” is tossed around in coaching circles it’s often much too easy to bring someone to that status.


    A favorite film of all basketball fans has a scene that comes to mind. English teacher Myra Fleenor meets head coach Norman Dale for the first time and discusses a local basketball “legend,” Jimmy Chitwood.

    “Gods come pretty cheap nowadays, don’t they? I mean, you become one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop. And I hate to tell you this, Mr. Dale, but it’s only a game,” Fleenor said.

    Bryan Trosper and Bob Doerr coaches, counselors, mentors, and role models for generations of Wyoming kids – h/t family photos

    There is no doubt that Bryan Trosper and Bob Doerr are genuine legends. They put their fair share of leather balls through an iron hoop in their day, but the accolades for both men extend far beyond the basketball court.

    Both are legends in their own right, Trosper at Wyoming Indian and Doerr at Byron and later Rocky Mountain.


    The world lost these two great men just 48 hours apart this week.

    I don’t want to deliver another glum eulogy, because that’s not what these guys were about, they were about kids.

    I’m proud to say I knew both men and while Bob was just an occasional acquaintance, Bryan was a friend.


    I met Bryan for the first time as a Ranger sports reporter back in the 1984-85 season. For those of you who don’t remember that special season, the Chiefs were on a roll.

    Head coach Al Redman was in the midst of Wyoming’s longest consecutive winning streak of 50 games and Bryan was on the bench with him.

    Al had two outstanding assistant coaches in Bryan and Tom Rogers. Trosper was the counselor of the squad but not in the traditional sense. Trosper could be understanding and would listen to a player’s concerns. but he could just as easily set a player’s attitude straight with in-your-face, to-the-point coaching.


    Bryan was a happy, jovial man, but many fans and players witnessed the competitive side, the side that made the difference between winning and losing for two full generations of Wyoming Indian basketball players.

    As the junior varsity coach at Shoshoni under head coach Chuck Wells from 1985 to 1987, my teams played Bryan’s four times. The Wranglers never won a JV game in those years, but I was impressed by how Bryan handled his team. He genuinely loved his players.

    Later, as head coach, I often joked with Bryan, Alfred, and Tom during lulls in tournament play or during summer league games. Bryan was a man who said what he meant and stuck to it. It’s something we all should strive to do.

    Bryan moved to an assistant position under head girls’ coach Aleta Moss and his demeanor softened, as it does for all of us when we become grandparents. He was an integral part of Aleta’s coaching staff, but his approach to the girls was much less confrontational and his kindness towards young, scared kids taking the floor for the first time was evident.

    Bryan also had a weakness for horses, shared by his son Truman.

    I’m proud to count Bryan and Truman as friends, but I always get a laugh when I remember the time they took a load of horses to Worland for a sale, and returned with more than they took north to Washakie County.

    Horse people are a special breed, and while Bryan didn’t share the cowboy enthusiasm of his brother Merton, he was still a cowboy at heart.

    Moving north to a county that’s been a rival of our own as long as games have been played, there is another genuine legend in Bob Doerr. Bob passed away at the venerable age of 98 years and lived a full life.

    I always enjoyed talking to Bob as he sat in the Lovell or Rocky Mountain stands with our mutual friend Ralph Winland.

    As another mutual friend, Mike Harris said when I relayed the message of Bob’s passing.

    “You couldn’t not like Bob, he was just a great guy.”

    Bob was the head basketball coach of the Byron Eagles when I was in high school. There never was any love lost between the kids from Wind River and Byron, Cowley, Basin, and Deaver.

    But as I aged, I learned to respect what Bob, a true gentle giant had done with the kids from the North Big Horn Basin.

    From 1963 to 1983, Bob coached Byron.

    In those two decades, his teams qualified for state 15 times. That’s no simple feat in a conference as competitive as the Big Horn Basin was in those days.

    His coaching record stands at 408 wins against 206 losses, but at Byron, he was 350 and 124, with state titles in 1969 and 70, second-place finishes in 1971, 1965, and 1976 and a third in 1977.

    He coached the fledgling Rocky Mountain team to state in 1985 and was 33-32 with the Grizzlies after Byron, Cowley, and Deaver merged.

    Bob also coached the Lady Grizzlies for four years from 1985 to 1988.

    A different view of the legendary coach came as I wrote stories on Heart Mountain High School, the Japanese internment camp between Cody and Powell during World War II.

    Bob’s name came up several times in the 1942-43 season before he graduated from Lovell the following year and went off to fight for the USA.

    Here is one excerpt from a baseball game played in May of 1943.

    “Fred Winterholler took the mound with Pete Peters catching. Bob Doerr played first with Don Ash, John Clark, and Max Jones rounding out the infield. Edgar Smith, Jim Frost, Clifton Workman, and Dwight Despain played in the outfield.”

    Bob was a big man at 6-4, huge for 1940s vintage basketball.

    Here is another snippet from March 1, 1943, “Lovell had a big lineup. A huge height advantage over the shorter Japanese team. Junior Forward Bob Doerr was 6-4 along with 6-5 post Max Jones. Guards Fred Winterholler and Harold Hogenrager were also all-conference-level players. In the second Jones and Doerr used their size in the key to hold Heart Mountain to only five points. The final 50-21 route wasn’t what Coach Kaihatsu had in mind, but the sportsmanship displayed by both teams was a victory in itself.

    It’s said that legends never die, and in the case of Bryan and Bob, there is truth to that statement. The influence, guidance, and advice they gave generations of young men and women in Big Horn and Fremont County are incalculable.

    I’m just glad I had the chance to ride along with them for a while.


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