San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown (left) instructs point guard Tony Parker (9) during an NBA playoff game in May. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
A coaching tree grows from St. Anselm to the NBA
"Many years ago I talked and he listened," the father of the newest Sixers coach was saying over the phone. "Now he talks and I listen."
Bob Brown is 75, two summers removed from his last coaching gig as the head man at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, two summers removed from a 52-year career that spanned seven high schools and three colleges, one at each level of the NCAA food chain.
Taking it easy hasn't been easy. Bob Brown has one of those gaudy records that look like a misprint (476-154 as a high school coach), has been placed in five halls of fame around New England, has written for local newspapers and had awards named after him.
Even in retirement, his footprint keeps expanding, from former players now coaching neighboring high schools and colleges right on up to the pro game.
In June, Steve Clifford, whose first coaching gig was as Brown's assistant at Saint Anselm College, was named the Charlotte Bobcats coach at age 51. By then, his son's name was floated around in several municipalities beyond this one, and it seemed only a matter of time - and contract length - before he would be hired by one of the 13 teams that went into the offseason looking for a new head coach.
"I think my niche, my best coaching, was high school and Division III," Bob Brown said. "That really fit me, the person. It was teaching kids life lessons through the medium of basketball. And I liked that because I thought I could help kids. But at the pro level, it's a business. And in Division I, it's a business. That to me was totally different. Even now I still help out some kids and some coaches, but it's a teaching thing. I still enjoy that."
"Where he's like me is that I always tried to do a job with the best effort I could," said the old coach. "Regardless of how long it took. And I think he thinks a similar way.
Enough to stick his toes back in perhaps? Brett once asked for the old man's help when he was hired as a head coach Down Under. Isn't there a natural role for the Downeast's most prominent basketball scholar down in Philly?
"No, no, no," Bob Brown said, laughing hard. "I'm done coaching. I'm 75 now. I'm out here fishing. I'm just going to be one of those old guys who sits back, has all the answers and is smart enough to shut my mouth."