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Brown finds right end

April 10, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

On Tuesday, Jim Brown called timeout for the final time.

Brown ended what has been a storied 43-year career as coach, athletic director, administrator and educator by announcing his retirement as Hagerstown Community College's men's basketball coach, athletic director and building administrator of the school's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, effective at the end of the school year.

The announcement, which had been reported on Monday, ended soul-searching by Brown and is likely the start of many changes on the school's administrative and athletic levels.

"I finally said to myself it was time to call timeout," Brown said. "I realized all good things come to an end and I decided in March (of 2001) to call an end to it in 2002.

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"There is never a good time to retire, especially when you are doing something you love like coaching, but it's the right time. I look at this as the end of the first half. Am I ready for the second half? Hopefully with participation and doing the things I do well, I will be."

Brown handled his closing press conference in much the same style he coached. He controlled the pace, worked the personnel and didn't stop the clock until the last minute.

He began by thanking everyone in the room - from local government officials to athletic complex volunteers, the recreation department, boosters, his office staff, his coaching staff and, finally, his wife Sharon.

"She didn't want me to retire because it was going to ruin her social life," Brown joked.

Brown's voice wavered a few times before he made his announcement to call it quits.

"I never cracked under pressure," Brown said to a few of his players who were on hand. "I did today."

Brown had been considering retirement for the last three years. He will be cleaning out his desk in the athletic department at the same time as school president Dr. Norman P. Shea, who has also announced his decision to step down after 16 years at the school.

Brown indicated his upcoming 65th birthday as a factor entering his decision. Brown will leave HCC after 23 years as basketball coach, 17 as athletic director and his 14th as the head administrator of the athletic complex. He was a key cog in construction of the building, which opened in December 1988.

He finishes with a 517-205 record at HCC, to go along with a 104-48 record in seven years at Hancock High School, followed by a 126-53 record at North Hagerstown High. He has coached nearly 1,100 Washington County events - with a cumulative record of 747-306.

In 1979, Brown accepted the basketball job at HCC.

"I thought this was the best job in America," Brown said. "Most of my friends thought I lost my mind, because back then, you didn't want to come near this place.

"After 23 years, I'm convinced the assessment of the situation was correct."

Carl Galligan, HCC's dean of students, said a search for Brown's coaching successor would begin immediately with hopes of filling the position quickly to allow recruiting. The school will take its time to consider who and how many to hire to fill Brown's athletic director and complex supervisor positions.

But Brown will not be part of the process.

"This was a lot harder than I thought it would be," Brown said. "I guess it was because I invited so many friends to come and having to talk to them."

Brown leaves HCC after helping establish a 14-sport program, a mentoring program for student-athletes and a booster club which is responsible for raising $80,000 in scholarship funds. He also helped institute the athletic complex's senior citizen volunteer and the county's recreation programs.

And after it all, Brown and Shea's departure guarantees that nothing will be the same at HCC.

"I will say there is a lot of changes coming," said women's basketball coach Marlys Palmer. "We came (here) together and it probably would have been nostalgic if we would have left together. I've respected Jim as a great leader. We wouldn't have the AARC without him and few people know about how deeply his concern is for the students. It will be the end of an era here when Dr. Shea and Jim retire."

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