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Parasiliti: Brown molded Hawks into a team, family

March 04, 2012
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Who knew?

You wouldn’t know it by looking at Barry Brown, but he’s Aristotle in a green pullover.

The Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball coach has spent an entire season teaching some simple philosophy to turn the Hawks into something special.

A team is much better if all the pieces fit together and are useful.

That is a coachspeak version of saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Since practices began in October, Brown hasn’t been shy about projecting success for this HCC team.

You could see it in the look in his eyes and the semi-smile on his face whenever he spoke about the Hawks.

HCC had recruited and assembled a team that had a certain rarified air about it.

The Hawks were lean and long and quick. Each player brought a special talent to the scorer’s table.

Each was polished with a high level of success at some past level.

The trick was to convince all the individual stars that they couldn’t twinkle on a college skyline alone.

They had to believe in a concept — or in this case a couple of them — to enjoy success.

First, HCC had to perfect a halfcourt style of play to go with the frantic pace the Hawks have been known for throughout the Brown family coaching dynasty.

Then, Brown had to convince the Hawks there was more to defense than standing in someone’s way — that it can help start that beloved frantic pace.

Finally, Brown had to find the time and place to assemble and showcase all those parts. He needed to see where each fit and make sure they functioned in every possible game situation and player combination.

That meant Brown had to play everyone on the roster.

The offense got the bulk of its work in the first half of the season.

The defense was polished before it morphed into an “ameba on steroids” over the last half of the season.

Adding up the sum of the parts for the greater good of the whole team was a season-long process.

The first two-thirds of the equation led HCC to a 22-4 regular-season record and the Maryland JuCo title.

But HCC’s depth has made the winning difference in the postseason. The Hawks won the school’s second-ever conference tournament title two weeks ago, followed by defeating No. 3-ranked Vincennes and longtime rival Allegany this weekend to retain the Region XX Division I title.

It was all because HCC’s bench was longer.

That third segment hasn’t been the most popular of decisions made by Brown this year. Many questioned his choice to turn his substitution pattern into a video game by shuffling so many players at the expense of easier, more convincing victories.

It was because of that look in Brown’s eye.

“All year long, we have employed the use of the bench for just this moment,” Brown said during the conference tournament. “We knew we couldn’t do this with just seven or eight guys. We needed to see what they could do and get them ready for when we got to this part of the season.”

Like most teams, HCC’s success starts with its main stars.

Devin Miller, Alister Chisholm and Tony Jenifer had been the face of the Hawks, leading them in the regular season.

Other starters, like Tione Womack and Ray Watson, have elbowed into the forefront over the last few weeks to keep HCC advancing.

And now, in the last three weeks, it’s been HCC’s supporting cast that has made the anonymous difference in the Hawks’ tournament successes.

Eddie Tarver, Jerel Carter, Kavon Pyatt and Antwan Pittman gave HCC a huge lift in the conference tournament after the Hawks lost Chisholm for nearly three games with a knee injury. They came through again on Saturday in the Region XX tournament by protecting HCC’s lead for 10 minutes during a second half saddled by foul trouble.

“We couldn’t have done this if we didn’t use 10 players this weekend,” Brown said Sunday after winning the region title. “We got here because of the work the bench did for us on Saturday to beat Vincennes.”

Brown got his team to drink his Kool-Aid and got a Gatorade bath for his efforts. He turned the Hawks into sneaker-wearing philosophers — a bunch of Nietzsches in Nikes, if you will.

Every single player is on the same page as Brown and freely credit all their successes to “being prepared the entire season to perform now.”

And because of it, the season will go on for at least one more weekend, with a possible trip to the NJCAA national tournament a victory away.

No matter what happens, this is a run that will shape many lives. The Hawks have become better players who look at their team as family. Those feelings last.

So maybe will this newly designed brand of basketball at HCC.

Barry Brown is not only a philosopher, but his ability to add to the sum of his parts make him part mathematician and part gambler, too.

You can tell that by the look in his eyes.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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