BORN ON THE COURT
How Coach Browns Long Career Brought Him to Albany
University at Albany men’s Basketball head coach Will Brown, who is entering his 18th year at the helm for the Great Danes, has much to be proud of.
In his time at the University, Brown has led the team to five America East Championships and trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Hailing from Long Island, Coach Brown spent much of his early life on the hardwood and his roots in the game run deep.
“I’m a son of a coach, my father was a longtime varsity basketball coach on Long Island for over 30 years, so I grew up in a gym,” Brown recalls.
Before his days on the sidelines, Brown was a three-year starter at Dowling College on Long Island and by the time he graduated, was the school’s all-time leader in assists, three-pointers made and free-throw percentage. He is also the only player in school history to score 1,000 points and dish out 500 assists.
After his playing career ended, Brown acknowledged that he wasn’t ready to give up the game and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, but at a higher level.
“As I got older and was finishing up college, I wanted the game to be apart of me. I wasn’t ready to give it up and I knew coaching was the best avenue to stay involved.”
Before Brown got started at UAlbany, he began his coaching career right down the road at the College of Saint Rose as an assistant coach under Brian Beaury, one of the most respected and influential coaches at the Division II level.
From there, Brown became as assistant Athletic Director and head coach at Sullivan County Community College. In his third and final year at Sullivan, he accepted the job as the Director of Basketball Operations at the University at Pittsburgh under head coach Ben Howland.
To celebrate, Brown and his wife decided to go on vacation. After not checking his phone the entire vacation, at the end, Brown was greeted by several messages by then-head coach of the Great Danes, Scott Beeten, whom Brown had developed a relationship with after one of Brown’s players at Sullivan signed at Albany.
Beeten was adamant about Brown joining Albany’s staff over Pittsburgh’s. Brown knew joining Albany was a no-brainer. At Pittsburgh, Brown would be behind three others, but with the Danes he would be the top assistant, with a high chance of potentially becoming the head-coach of a Division-1 program in the coming years.
“I knew if I came here and did a good job and had success, that if Beeten did leave here, maybe I would have a chance to get the job.” It was a vision that went according to plan, and a decision that Brown surely does not regret.
During Brown’s first season as an assistant, the Great Danes began the season with a sluggish 0-8 record. Beeten was fired, and Brown was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2001-2002 season. At the time, at 30 years old, Brown was the second youngest head coach at the D-I level in the country.
Brown remembers then Athletic Director Lee McElroy telling him, “We will support you, just coach the team, we will evaluate you, see how it goes, and we determine your fate at the end of the year.”
He was told to “hold the fort down” for the rest of the season as the school scoured the country for head coaching options.
However, Albany did not have to search farther than their own campus, naming Brown the official head coach after that season, where he has been successful for nearly two decades.
“They decided to give me an opportunity, and I’ve been here ever since,” Brown said.
His success can be captured in two of his favorite memories as coach. One such memory is winning the America East championship in 2005 for the first time, clinching the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth, where the energy in SEFCU Arena was electric.
“We had thousands of students camping out for tickets. I remember my former player Lucius Jordan hit a three to start the game off and you would’ve thought the roof was about to blow off. The energy was incredible.”
Yet, above all, his favorite and proudest moment of his career was guard Peter Hooley’s game winning three pointer in the 2015 America East Championship against Stony Brook. Hooley, who had recently lost his mother, sunk a trey in the final seconds to send Albany to the Big Dance.
“That was the greatest moment, especially given everything that he had been through prior.”
Off the court, Brown’s program has also had the most players (24) named to the America East’s all-academic team.
With Brown leading the way for the Purple and Gold, the future is bright.