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Little Brown Juggernaut

November 25, 2000

Little Brown Juggernaut



Trip to 700 filled with memories, lessons

Jim Brown has the anatomy of a winner: short memory, gray hair, confidence, loyalty to your hired hands and some life-changing peace of mind.

These aren't physical items found on any x-ray. Instead, they are attributes Brown has acquired over many years of coaching basketball in the area. It's a bundle that's been packed away and goes largely unnoticed until one approaches a mile marker on the road of success - like 700 career victories.

Brown's journey came around the curve to the latest milestone on Friday when Hagerstown Community College defeated the Technical Career Institute of New York 103-82 in a weekend mixer at the HCC athletic complex.

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A victory places Brown in some elite company. A loss is just a glitch along the way.

"I've survived because I can't remember my last loss," Brown said. "You have to forget them right away. Every night you go out to coach, you're on duty. People are watching you and evaluating you every time the team steps on the court. You can't let it all bother you."

It's a philosophy that has serviced Brown though most of his career. The 700 wins are combined over his 37 years on the sidelines, including time at Hancock and North Hagerstown high schools before his current 22-year stint at HCC.

"Hitting 700 wins is a benchmark that means you have achieved an ultimate goal among your peers," Brown said. "There are two ways that you get to this level. First, it means that I've been around this for a long time and second, it means I've been able to win a high percentage of games.

"The biggest thing you have to remember is that I didn't get to this level alone. I've always had good assistant coaches who do a lot of the work. These guys have made it possible for me to stay in coaching."

Brown, who has averaged 23 wins a year in his career, leans on the help and advice of Rob Cline, who has assisted him for 21 years, his son Barry Brown, who's been on HCC's bench for 15 years and Kenny Keyes, a 12-year vet at HCC. Both Keyes and Barry Brown played for Jim Brown.

The trio has been with Brown for a majority of his memorable games.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "I remember our first big upset of a No. 1-ranked team in my second year here (1979-80)," Brown said. "We were 18 points down to (CCAC-Allegheny) and came back and won."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "Then there is the game where we beat No. 1 Southern Idaho in the opening game of the national tournament (in 1989)."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "I remember the Dexter Boney (1988-90) when we would fill the place up with a crowd because they knew they were seeing the kind of special player he was. I also enjoyed the teams in the Bernard Hopkins era and the Contrell Scott-Patrick Lee eras."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "We've had over 40 players go on to play at Division I programs and a countless number who have gone to Division II schools."

While all the memories stay with Brown over the years, his defining moment came three years ago, when the rug of another success was pulled out from under him.

HCC had just defeated No. 1-rated Allegany College in the Region XX final to earn its third trip to the NJCAA Tournament. But after the game, it was learned that one of the Hawks was ineligible since the beginning of the season, a season in which Brown had already won his 700th game.

The Hawks were not only forced to forfeit all 22 wins and the national tournament berth that season, they were given one year of probation for violating national eligibility rules.

"That probation period was probably the most positive thing that has happened to me in my life," Brown said. "I never realized all the friends and supporters I had until that time. Everyone rallied to my side during the lowest point of my life."

Friends, family, area business leaders and school supporters came to give Brown solace. It allowed him to come back to his job stronger and more focused.

"I was able to work through something that would have wrecked an ordinary coach's career," Brown said. "I realized a lot of the pain I was feeling was self-inflicted.

"I missed an eligibility rule and it hurt us. It's tough to deal with - that my mistake ruined something for so many people and players who worked so hard for the program," Brown said. "Now I realize that I couldn't ask players to make the sacrifice to the coaching philosophy I'm preaching unless I was able to travel through some personal turmoil and survived it."

The personal philosophy has gone through overhauls and changed over the years in rhythm with the pace and nature of the game of basketball. It's just a tougher task to get it across to the players.

"Players are more athletic now," Brown said. "They are bigger and faster than they have ever been, but because of that, their fundamentals aren't as strong as they were in the old days. Now it's tough to get players to believe in the team concept. You can make it happen, but you have to work at it."

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