Sitting down with coach Will Brown
By Aaron Cheris
University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown will be beginning his fourteenth season leading the Great Danes once the season begins in November. The ASP sat down with Brown as his team prepares to try and win their third straight America East title.
What were your aspirations when you were younger?
I’m the son of a coach so I grew up in a gym. My goal was to play at the highest level. I had dreams and aspirations to play in the NBA like every young, naïve kid.
When did you realize you weren’t NBA bound?
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 15. It’s something I’ve been battling for a while. After college, I knew that because of my health situation that continuing playing wasn’t going to be an option, so I thought the next best option was to get into coaching.
How did you end up here at UAlbany?
My dad was a friend of the head coach at the College of St. Rose, and I got a job as an assistant there. I spent three years there then took a job at Sullivan Community College. After three years there, I was hired as an assistant at UAlbany in 2001. After four months, the coach was fired and they brought me in (as interim head coach). After that first season, they were crazy enough to hire me (full time).
Few coaches are able to stay in the same place for 13 years, how have you been able to do so?
The university gave me my first opportunity to be a division one head coach. This is a place that I enjoy working, living, and raising a family. It’s a program that I was able to build and I feel that this is a place where we can consistently compete for conference championships. It’s a place where I can recruit high character kids who value and education, kids who are good basketball players.
Have you gotten offers to leave UAlbany and coach another school?
Every year you go to the NCAA Tournament, you have other opportunities. That’s one of the biggest issues in our profession. A lot of people are chasing the most money or the highest level. For me, being in a place where I feel I can consistently win, where we have support, and where my family is comfortable is more important to me than coaching at the highest level or making the most money.
What do you hope a player gets over his time at the university?
I hope we as a staff do a great job of trying to help them improve as people, students and players, and get them ready for the real world. I want them to be a part of this university and a part of our program for not just the next one, two, three, or four years, but forever. I want them to be a part of this university and a part of our program. The biggest thing is producing solid citizens who are graduating and graduating in four years.
How would you describe your coaching style during the games?
A lot of times, you’re on the sideline and your hands are tied. I can’t get a rebound, I can’t score a basket. I want (the players) to see how invested we are in the game. I’m very laid back off the court, but once I’m on the court, I’m invested, I’m in the game, I’m breaking a sweat. Everything that I have, I’m trying to give.
You have won four America East titles, both coming in back-to-back seasons. How do the first two compare to the last two?
The first year we did it in 2006 was really special because we did it in SEFCU Arena. The following year we had to go up and win in Vermont in a very difficult environment. These last two years, I think our teams were playing our best basketball at the right times. This past year, in particular, we were banged up in conference play. We started getting healthy and playing well at the right time. We got down 9-0 at Vermont two years ago and we got down 9-0 at Stony Brook last year. Both times, we went on runs to take the lead and win.
Last year, the purple uniforms you designed gained nationwide notoriety. What are your thoughts on that?
I just don’t know why people were making fun of our uniforms. The old saying is any publicity is good publicity. If ESPN was talking about us and mentioning and listing us as the worst uniforms and people were talking about us in the same breath. Nobody complained about our home uniforms because they were white and purple. It’s just that we look like a Sweet Tart package with the purple and gold.
How are this year’s uniforms looking?
I promised I would retire from designing uniforms but I have given it one more shot. They’ll be more appealing to the eye than the old ones. When everyone starts tweeting about how nice the new ones are, Peter Hooley is going to take credit for those, I guarantee.