Bussie breathes easy after getting Alcorn job
For three weeks, Landon Bussie lived in a world loaded with stress and anxiety. He couldn’t sleep as his mind swirled with thoughts about his future and he waited for the call that would determine it.
The longtime Prairie View A&M men’s basketball assistant was a leading candidate for Alcorn State’s head coaching position. If he got the job, it could be the launching pad to a great career. If he didn’t, it would be a deflating personal defeat.
“It’s the worst ever. I don’t wish it on anybody,” Bussie said of the stress of waiting for an answer. “You don’t sleep. You barely eat. I think in the past three weeks I’ve slept through the night maybe once. I’ve gone to bed at 1 o’clock, woke up at 4 o’clock, and wouldn’t go back to bed until the next day at 12. It’s definitely an anxiety thing, where you’re ready to get moving forward and make a decision. You want everything to speed up, but it’s a process.”
The process finally played out, and Bussie was able to get a good night’s sleep. He was hired by Alcorn late last week, earning his first head coaching job after 10 years as an assistant at Xavier University (La.) and Prairie View.
“When I got that call I was in tears. I worked so hard for this opportunity and I was prepared for this,” Bussie said. “With me being the top assistant at Prairie View, Coach (Byron) Smith gave me the luxury of making a lot of decisions on my own so it prepared me for this situation. When I got that call, I was overwhelmed with everything.”
Bussie has packed a lot of coaching experience into a short time. He joined Xavier’s staff immediately after his playing career ended, moved to Prairie View as an assistant with the women’s team in 2014, and joined the men’s coaching staff the following year.
The 32-year-old is among the youngest head coaches in Division I, which he said is an asset in relating to young players from both a mental and physical standpoint.
“Kids now are absolutely different. I’m able to understand them a little bit more and relate to them, and talk to them in a different kind of way,” Bussie said. “I can still get out there myself, as well. I’m not going to be one of those coaches that sits back on the sideline. I’m going to get out there and show you how I want it done.”
Bussie felt that his experience in the Southwestern Athletic Conference is also a big asset. He helped Prairie View win the SWAC Tournament in 2019, and back-to-back regular-season championships in 2019 and 2020.
Bussie earned a reputation as a strong recruiter and assistant coach with the Panthers. He is credited with recruiting six key contributors to the two championship teams. On the court, Prairie View ranked seventh in the country this season with 17.7 turnovers forced per game, led the SWAC with 8.7 steals per game, and allowed less than 67 points per game 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Bussie said he plans to bring the same defense-first approach that worked at Prairie View to Alcorn.
“To be honest with you, I don’t even know what offense is,” Bussie said with a laugh. “It’s definitely going to be a defense with a lot of guys flying around, active hands, rotating and having a tough mentality. It’s a one-on-one battle, you against your man. Are you going to let your man impose the will, or are you going to impose the will? I want to try and speed teams up and get them to take bad shots, early shots, and force them into turnovers.”
Bussie’s biggest challenge will be one that four other coaches have tried and failed to achieve over the past two decades — winning the SWAC championship and getting the Braves to the NCAA Tournament.
The last time Alcorn won the SWAC title was in 2002, when the legendary Davey Whitney was on the bench. The program has won just 30 percent of its games since Whitney retired in 2003.
Bussie’s predecessor, Montez Robinson, appeared to have the Braves heading in the right direction. He led them to a 15-15 record this season, but the Braves lost in the first round of the SWAC Tournament and Robinson’s contract was not renewed.
That passed the baton on to Bussie, who believes his style can mesh with the talent on the roster to push the program forward.
“You definitely can see that there are bright spots,” Bussie said. “With a few more players that I’m going to be bringing in the door, and my style of tough coaching, a lot of energy and intensity that I’m going to be bringing to the table every day, once I get those players to buy in and believe that the system is going to work, I can honestly see it going in the upward direction and before you know it we’ll be holding a banner or a ring.”
Bussie also looked beyond basketball for an example of creating a winning culture at Alcorn. The football team went 20 years without winning a conference championship, but has won six consecutive East Division titles and dominated the SWAC over the past six years.
Bussie is hoping to tap in to that kind of enthusiasm and support to build a winner.
“When you’re able to identify the core of guys that Alcorn is bringing back, you see the success from the football team, that’s definitely something you look into. You see that you’re able to get the support from the alumni, from the administration, from the student body and things like that,” he said.