In his fifth season as head of the Damascus high school boys basketball team, Brian Humphrey is thrilled to be leading the program to success.
“You’ll see a grown man cry hysterically on the floor if we’re able to raise our own banner,” Humphrey said. “It would be a dream come true for sure.”
After leading Damascus to a 9-0 start before an early playoff exit to eventual state champion Oakdale in the 2021-22 season, Humphrey has led the Swarmin’ Hornets to a 14-0 start this season. Humphrey describes the historic start as the best start in school history that “they know of.”
Humphrey knows the history of the program well, the 38-year-old coach played at Damascus, graduating from the school in 2002.
“Playing here, we had some decent years,” Humphrey said. “But we certainly weren’t great. That 1949 banner has been mocking me for years.”
1949 is the last and only time the school has hoisted a boys basketball championship trophy. They made it to the state semifinals one other time, in 1952.
“Our coach tells us all the time, just look at that banner. It’s kind of just staring down at us,” Damascus senior center Conor Shifflet said. “You guys gotta win one. You see all the football banners up there, everyone else sees them. No one hears about Damascus basketball so we gotta just show the world.”
The Swarmin’ Hornets returned all but one player from last season, including four of five starters and eight seniors. The group has helped Damascus to its undefeated record.
“All the work that we’ve put in since we were really in middle school as a group coming up,” Damascus senior guard Joey Lutz said. “It would really mean the world to us to be able to put a banner up there that says 2023 state champs.”
While his players have been hoping to bring a title to the small town for years, Humphrey has been waiting for decades. After a stint as head coach at Seneca Valley, Humphrey returned to Damascus to be closer to his family.
Humphrey’s father, Jim Humphrey, who recently passed away, held down the fort at the scorers table. Humphrey’s family still regularly attends games. He told DC News Now that he hopes his children one day play for Damascus. But before that, he hopes to take the program where it’s never been.
“We never won the big one here, so we’re trying to hopefully create a situation and environment where these guys get to kind of live out the dream that a lot of us had then,” Humphrey said.