For years, Brad Shorter has preached a simple, yet meaningful philosophy to his prep basketball players — family comes first.
Now, after a successful run on the sidelines, Shorter is practicing what he preaches.
After guiding the Carl Junction girls basketball program to new heights, Shorter told SoMo Sports that he has relinquished his coaching duties in order to spend more time with his family.
“I think the time is right,” Shorter said on Tuesday morning. “My daughter Hali is a senior and she’s finishing high school. My son Maddox is getting ready to go into high school. I haven’t been able to spend the time with Maddox like I was able to do with Hali. That plays a big part in this.
“I preach every day to the kids that faith and family come first and then school and basketball,” Shorter added. “I want to be able to spend more time with my little guy. I want to watch him grow up.”
Shorter added the decision to step down was not an easy one. He informed his players of his decision this past Friday.
“I hate to leave the kids because you make great connections with them,” Shorter said. “It was a very tough decision…I went back and forth on it.”
Shorter said he’s confident he’s leaving the CJ girls basketball program in a good spot for whoever takes over as the next head coach.
“I think the program is in a great position,” Shorter said. “The program has a returning all-stater in Kylie Scott and also has Dezi Williams, who I think will be an all-stater soon. The team has a lot of other kids with experience like Jadyn Howard, Anna Burch and Shay Buerge. That’s a solid five returning. I feel good about that. I didn’t want to leave it to someone in a rough spot. I think the program is in a great spot.”
It’s the end of an era for one of the Joplin area’s top prep basketball coaches.
Shorter owns a coaching record of 485-134 on the hardwood, with an impressive 275-72 record at Carl Junction.
Shorter coached at his alma mater, Lockwood, before his first stint at Carl Junction, which lasted from 2005-08. A successful run at Webb City followed from 2008-14.
He returned to Carl Junction in ’14.
During Shorter’s second stint at Carl Junction, the Bulldogs ascended to new heights by becoming arguably one of the state’s top girls basketball programs.
“A lot of good memories for sure,” Shorter said. “Even the three years I was here before I went to Webb were great. I felt like we turned things around pretty quick then. We won a district championship that first year. And the second stint here has been outstanding…eight district championships in-a-row. I’m really proud of the three conference titles, especially as the smallest school in the conference. We also won the Big 8 twice before we went to the COC. I feel like we did some good things as a coaching staff. I had a number of assistants over the years and all of them did an outstanding job. I was very fortunate to have great assistants.”
Under Shorter, Webb City’s girls basketball program went 149-33 and made four trips to the final four, with a state championship (2010), two runners-up (’09, ’13) and one third-place finish (’11).
Shorter noted there are still misconceptions about why he resigned at Webb City.
“I was going to go work with Lane Lord at Pittsburg State as his assistant,” Shorter said. “I resigned at Webb and thought it was all good to go at Pitt State. I thought I had an opportunity there, but that fell through. I was miserable for a few weeks. I still wanted to coach obviously.”
That led Shorter to his second stint at Carl Junction.
Under Shorter’s direction, the Carl Junction girls captured eight straight district championships (beginning in ’16), three conference titles and advanced to the state semifinals four times.
Carl Junction was fourth in the state in 2017 and second in 2018 before the program put together an undefeated 2020 season (28-0). Of course, that year the Bulldogs didn’t get to compete at the Final Four because the state tourney was canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2022-23 season was another memorable and historic one for the CJ girls program.
Carl Junction went 30-2, a school record for wins, and advanced to the Class 5 state championship game, falling to Lutheran St. Charles 44-39.
During Shorter’s second stint at CJ, he coached a number of standout players, including Brenlee McPherson, Alex Vogt, Megan, Katie and Kylie Scott, and Destiny Buerge.
Katie Scott was the Gatorade Missouri Girls Basketball Player of the Year in ’20 and Buerge was the Class 5 Co-Player of the Year this past season.
“I’m proud of the success obviously,” Shorter said. “But more than that, I’m proud of how so many kids progressed from their freshman year to their senior year. And our kids always have had one of the top GPAs of all the sports at CJ. It was always nice to see the kids grow up and to see them come back.”
One former player who is obviously very special to Coach Shorter is his daughter, Hali.
When he returned to Carl Junction, Hali was in the fourth grade. Hali was the team’s ‘water girl’ for several years before her four-year prep career in a Bulldogs uniform.
“Coaching Hali was unbelievable,” Coach Shorter said. “Most parents would love the opportunity to spend a couple of extra hours each day with their kid and just be a fly on the wall. Coaching her was fun. She worked hard and was super coachable. She was like a coach on the floor. But just being in the same room with her was great. I’m very proud of her and the person she has become. I’d like to think Alicia and I have something to do with that.”
Shorter isn’t entirely finished with coaching. Shorter noted he plans on becoming an assistant coach with Carl Junction’s baseball program next spring, just in time for Maddox’s freshman year.
“I’m going to coach baseball next year with Dr. (Phil) Cook (as his assistant),” said Shorter, who was an all-American baseball player at Pittsburg State. “It will be an opportunity for me to coach my son. I’m excited to coach baseball. It’s a sport I really enjoy.”
Shorter added he wouldn’t rule out coaching basketball in the future if the right opportunity presented itself.
But for now, coaching high school basketball is in the past.
Shorter couldn’t help but reflect a bit on the years and years of developing players.
And as you’d expect, all of those players became like family.
“The success of the program says a lot about the kids and the culture we built,” Shorter said. “I think they know I care about them. We get into education and coaching because we love kids and we want to give them opportunities. To see the growth makes you feel good as a coach. You know you made a difference.
“The thing I’ll miss the most is all the time with the players in practice after school and all the road trips,” he continued. “There’s a lot of bonding. I’ll miss the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. We always had great team chemistry…like a big family.”