Polk County head girls basketball coach Brandy Alm has had her husband, Billy, serve as her assistant coach throughout her 10 years with the program

During a recent Polk County girls basketball game, head coach Brandy Alm was frustrated. She was clutching the markers she uses to draw on a dry-erase clipboard, and she tossed them up in the air, catching them on the way down.

She promptly received a technical foul.

By her own admission, she’s done much worse to deserve a tech without receiving one, and that one surprised her. It also made her frustration worse.

So one of her assistants, who usually sits on the far end of the Wolverines’ bench, moved down a few seats to talk with her and try to calm her down.

The assistant knew just what to say to the head coach. Billy Alm often knows just what to say to his wife.

“He moved up (the bench), and he was just telling me to calm down, to stop talking to the referee, that I didn’t want to get thrown out,” Brandy Alm said. “He definitely calms me down better than anyone. I’m passionate about basketball, especially when I feel like my girls are getting pushed around or if things aren’t being called. He can talk some sense into me.”

The relationship that’s such a big part of Polk County athletics (Billy is the Wolverines’ baseball coach) was born at Newberry College. There, Brandy was a senior basketball player working on a fundraiser. She noticed a particular baseball player.

“We were all sitting at a table, I was the only senior, and I was trying to recruit everybody for the fundraiser,” she said. “The baseball team walked up, and he’s the first one I saw. It was like ‘oh my goodness, who is that guy?’ They started talking to me, and I knew some of them, but I was speechless, almost. I was just staring at him. That was the first time we met.”

“It was pretty much instant,” Billy agreed. “I saw her in the hallway, she was doing recruiting for some two-on-two basketball game. It just took off from there.”

As the couple dated, married and started working, coaching basketball wasn’t on Brandy’s mind. Billy was a football assistant, as was the girls basketball coach at the time, Chris Mintz.

“I was a broker with Wyndham,” Brandy said. “Once I got done playing, I kind of thought I’d take a break from basketball. I’d come and watch some games. Billy told them I’d played in college, and they asked him if I’d be interested in helping. I said I’d go to the gym and help out, and as soon as I did, I realized this is what I needed to be doing. I loved it.”

The Alms’ son Gunnar, now a sophomore, was still in a carrier, about six months old. Brandy was the second assistant.

“I drove on my own to most of the games, because I couldn’t get away from work,” she said. “I fell in love with this atmosphere, and with all the kids. That was my first experience on the other side of the court. It was fun.”

Brandy Alm serves as Polk County’s head girls basketball coach while Billy Alm is the school’s head baseball coach and also helps coach football and girls basketball

Soon, Brandy was offered the opportunity to coach the middle school girls team, where Billy was coaching the middle school boys.

“I loved it, but I was a little intense to begin with,” she said with a laugh.

Also intense was the Alms’ rivalry – with each other.

“We were flip-flopping with our kids, with practice times, and then of course we had a little bit of a competitive side there,” Billy said. “I was talking about winning more games and having more conference championships – which I do.”

There was also the type of communication that Billy credits with his team’s success.

“I always looked to her,” he said. “She’s the basketball guru. I’d ask her what she saw a team doing at halftime, what I needed to do, what adjustments I needed to make. She made some huge adjustments for me, and that’s a reason that we won so often. But I’m definitely still going to talk trash.”

Now, though, it’s Billy giving his advice and opinions, whether they’re solicited or not. Brandy is in her 10th season as Polk County’s head coach – Billy has been an assistant throughout that time.

“He never stops giving his opinion,” Brandy said. “He knows. He knows exactly what buttons to push. He knows what he shouldn’t say, and he knows what I need to hear. He just knows me inside and out.”

“I’m just going to give my opinion,” Billy said. “I say what I want to say and ask for forgiveness later. I kind of look at what she’s doing and try to give advice. I know how to push her buttons. After 20 years, I know exactly what to say and when to say it. I know what she’s doing. I know what she’s thinking by now. It really works well. And I know her that well because we’re together all the time.”

That, at the heart of it, is what makes the Alms’ situation work.

“I really enjoy it,” Billy said. “We’re a close-knit family anyway. We’re at all the kids’ stuff. When we’re NOT together, it’s different. I was out of town recently and she drove six hours from the beach to stay a night in Atlanta so we could be together as a family. It’s just really important to us, and we’re going to have a lot of memories from it.”

Those memories are already being made.

“A lot of times, when we get home, we don’t even talk about school or about our teams,” Brandy said. “Our son is here, he’s a sophomore, and his friends are always at the house. We’re kind of always surrounded by Polk County High School. It’s a great place to be, obviously.

“We’ve been here for so long, anyway. We think of the kids as family, because most of them, we’ve known them since they were four or five. It’s been nice to watch them grow up. This is all just a really cool experience. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”