Brown's family situation was the biggest reason he stepped down this year rather than coach one more season. He also has hoped for many years to leave the next coach with a roster full of talent. The Tigers return their top four scorers and eight of their top 10 scorers, plus a strong recruiting class, next year for Matt Croci, who was named head coach last week.
“If I went one more year, then you would be losing five senior letterwinners,” Brown said. “That’s another factor. You put all those together, and there was just a higher being saying, ‘This is the time.’ ”
Brown stepped down June 2. He’s Wittenberg’s all-time winningest coach with a career record of 483-167. Counting head coaching jobs at Wooster (1982-83) and Kenyon (1984-89), he was 543-266. He ranks 11th in Division III history in career victories.
The West Liberty-Salem High School and Wittenberg graduate lived a dream. When he was hired in May 1993, after four seasons at Kenyon, Brown told reporters, “I have no desire to become a Division I head coach. Wittenberg is the North Carolina of Division III basketball. I came back because this is a special place to me. It is the ultimate competitive challenge to continue the tradition of excellence in basketball the school has.”
Brown did just that, reaching the national semifinals in his first season and losing the national championship game 59-56 on a last-second 3-pointer by Virginia Wesleyan’s TonTon Balenga in 2006.
“I would hope all of us would be remembered for how we shined in the face of real athletic adversity of losing a national title on the last shot,” Brown said. “I told the guys after the game, ‘We’ve got a chance to shine even more brightly than if we won, and we did.’ ”
That 2005-06 team featured two players who rank ninth and 10th in career scoring at Wittenberg: Dan Russ (1,472) and Dane Borchers (1,461). Brown also coached Wittenberg’s all-time assists leader (Anthony Robinson: 618, 1993-96) and its all-time leader in 3-pointers (Chris Sullivan: 241, 2008-11).
Those are just a few of the many players who made their names under Brown.
Brown hopes he’s remembered as a coach who “cared about people off the court for more than what they could do for us on the court” and as someone “who lived Wittenberg basketball 24-7 and that it showed up and our players felt that level of preparation.”
Brown leaves knowing the program is in good hands. He wanted Croci, who was a senior in Brown’s first season, to get the job but knew he couldn’t guarantee it. Athletic Director Gary Williams saw the importance of keeping the program in the hands of a Wittenberg graduate.
“I’m a Wittenberg guy through-and-through,” Brown said. “We have new leadership in terms of the athletic director, and you never really know what a (non-Wittenberg grad) is going to do. Matt is a Witt guy. When we asked him to take Travis (Schwab’s) place, I certainly knew and hoped he would have a really great shot at becoming the next head coach. … I’m just really pleased it’s in a Wittenberg person’s hands.”