Coach Bob Brown led the STA Baseball and Basketball Programs to 16 IAC Championships
Brilliant Tactician. Creative. Detail Oriented. Dedicated. Demanding. Uncompromising High Standards. These are the words that often describe the most treasured coaches and teachers at all levels of school and sports. And these are the words that Bob Brown’s former players, coaches, and colleagues at St. Albans use to describe him. Coach Brown, one of the most highly respected coaches in the history of DMV-area high school athletics, passed away Tuesday, June 14. Coach Brown arrived at St. Albans in 1972 and had an immediate impact on the baseball and basketball programs. In Coach Brown’s first two years at STA, he was in the dugout as an assistant for two IAC baseball championships and on the bench as an assistant for the 1973 basketball championship. In all, Brown helped lead Bulldog basketball and baseball teams to more than 30 IAC championships in his 34-year coaching tenure at the school. Brown was named head baseball coach in 1976 and from 1978 through 1987 guided the program to 10 straight IAC titles. Coach Brown was the Washington Post All-Met Baseball Coach of the Year in 1986. He won an 11th IAC baseball championship in 1990, his last as head coach, then handed the program off to one of his former players and assistant coach Dave Baad ’83. Coach Brown stayed on as an assistant to Baad, helping the team win another eight championships in nine years. He also served as an assistant coach in the football program for several years and taught math in the Lower School from 1973 through 1982.
As recounted in St. Albans School: The First 100 Years, An Illustrated History, the history book that commemorated the school’s first century, The Washington Post wrote the following about STA baseball and Coach Brown in 1987:
For several years, St. Albans has been the most consistently successful high school baseball team in Washington. Nevertheless, the team’s dominance is somewhat surprising. The school is a small private institution for boys located in upper Northwest Washington with an enrollment of approximately 300 [Upper School] students, and it is not known for its athletics. But in baseball, the Bulldogs represent excellence. And the key reason for that is the philosophy of their 37-year-old coach, Bob Brown. Brown explained his success to the Post: “I don’t get great athletes, but I don’t look for them. What I do look for are the dedicated kids, the ones who are willing to work at the sport. Our goal is to be overachievers—to play to our maximum potential every game.”
The versatile coach who relished beating bigger, more talented squads from larger schools, added head basketball coach to his STA resume in 1986. The program won five IAC championships with Coach Brown at the helm. He was named the Washington Post All-Met Coach of the Year in 1993, making him one of the very few coaches to ever win All-Met Coach of the Year honors in more than one sport. He coached 12 players who earned All-Met basketball honors in his 22 seasons as the head coach. The 1992-93 team, widely considered the best St. Albans basketball team ever, finished that season ranked #2 by the Post. That incredible season was highlighted by a 67-57 win at DeMatha, the national powerhouse coached by Morgan Wooten, the first-ever career high school coach inducted into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame. Coach Wooten once told a roomful of coaches at a coaching clinic that Bob Brown was the best coach of individual and team defense that he had ever seen.
Always the consummate coach, Coach Brown’s impact on St. Albans’ athletics and the young men he coached spans all STA sports and several generations. From baseball’s spring break training trips to creative off-season training regimens and STA teams’ eagerness to play against the area’s top competition, Coach Brown established foundational athletic principals that live on today. Anyone that played for or coached with Bob was treated to a master class in skill development, tactics, and strategies. Coach Brown was always generous with his time and mentorship of other St. Albans coaches. His lessons remain woven into the fabric of St. Albans athletics through those coaches and former players as expressed below.
Head Basketball Coach OJ Johnson ‘97, who played for Coach Brown from 1994-1997, recalls: “During my time as a student at STA, Coach Brown and I did not always see eye to eye. However, upon my return, Coach Brown was one of the very first people to congratulate me. Over the past several years, we shared moments of reflection, advice, and of course, coaching strategies. The one thing that every team ever led by Coach Brown had in common was preparation. His attention to detail always set us apart from our opponents. To this day, that is one of the things that I try to emulate with our STA basketball teams. Coach Brown’s infamous Box & One and Triangle & 2 ‘junk defenses’ were one of a kind and kept all opposing coaches and teams on their heels. RIP, Coach Brown.”
St. Albans cross-country coach and religion and English teacher Jim Ehrenhaft ’83 credits Coach Brown with inspiring him to teach and coach. “Coach Brown was a masterful teacher of basketball. He knew how to challenge us in a way that conditioned us mentally and physically to be ready for whatever the competition would bring. His passion for the sport and for aspiring to excellence was contagious. Playing for him helped lead me on the path to wanting to teach and coach.”
Long-time STA lacrosse coach Malcolm Lester (1991-2012) fondly remembers working alongside Coach Brown, saying, “Coach Brown was synonymous with excellence, loyalty, and attention to detail—and the ‘Professor’ also possessed an All-Met sense of humor. I had the pleasure of working with Bob for 16 years, and our closeness continued beyond St. Albans. He was a winner on the field, a winner with his colleagues, and a winner with his friendships. To me and to the legions of his former players, longtime colleagues, and many fans, the great Bob Brown was the ultimate St. Albans man.”
Current Athletic Director and former ice hockey coach Dan Ryan echoed Lester’s sentiments. “I arrived at St. Albans in 2005 and realized immediately the huge impact Coach Brown had on STA athletics. Even though we coached different sports in the same season, limiting our ability to watch each other’s teams, Bob welcomed me warmly right away and he was always available to talk to me about STA’s traditions, the art of coaching, and anything else that was on my mind. He lived coaching and loved talking X’s and O’s about any sport. After he left STA I would frequently see Bob at Bullis or in our gym scouting or coaching games and he always took time to ask about my family and the STA hockey program. I loved our talks about coaching and working with kids and remain ever grateful for the wisdom he so generously shared.”
Current football, basketball and baseball coach Cameron Dantley ’04, a member of the 2004 IAC championship basketball team and former Syracuse quarterback said, “Coach Brown was one of the best coaches I ever had. He always expected nothing less than maximum effort at all times. Practices were brutal but it was always to make sure we were ready for anyone we played. We beat a lot of teams that people didn’t expect us to beat. We weren’t the most talented team but we worked hard, and it made us one of the highest ranked teams in school history. I appreciated Coach Brown giving good advice to me to help me through my athletic career, even after graduating from STA. He was always very nice to me in reaching out and every time I saw him he asked about my family. I will remember him for pushing me to be the best athlete I could be by being the hardest worker and doing the little things that everyone else might not have wanted to do. I will also remember him for his love for the Indianapolis Colts and especially Peyton Manning. He talked to me about how much of a student of the game Peyton was and in turn I studied a lot of film of him that would help me progress as a quarterback in high school and into prep school and college. The details were always important. It helped me tremendously during my time at STA and in college. He was appreciated by so many of his former players, and he will be missed.”
Former player, coach, athletic director and associate headmaster Dave Baad ‘83 credits Coach Brown with instilling confidence throughout the St. Albans athletic program and inspiring legions of players to take up coaching and teaching. “What Bob brought with him was an attitude that we would compete against anybody, anytime, and anywhere. What gave us the ability to do that was Bob’s relentless effort to spend time on the field or on the court with kids making them better. And I think about all of the people he coached who went on to be coaches and teachers themselves. There is a long coaching tree in DC and around the country – not just people who coach as a profession, but also people who became really good youth coaches for their kids’ teams and brought Bob’s same standards to what they did. In that way Bob has impacted many more young people than just those at STA. He should be remembered among the great faculty members in the history of a great school.”
And finally, former player and current member of the St. Albans Governing Board Brendan Sullivan ’93 expressed what we have heard from so many others: “Coach Brown believed in his athletes more than we believed in ourselves. He often pushed us into situations and opportunities for which we weren’t quite ready, and then fueled our growth, success, and confidence with his signature combination of intensity and unwavering care. For decades, Coach Brown’s omnipresence at St. Albans gyms and fields were a constant reminder of the effort and dedication required to compete and lead as a Bulldog and beyond. Seven days a week, Coach was there for an extra set of three-pointers, round of batting practice with the JUGS machine cranked to max velocity from 35 feet - and always one final drag of the infield.
"For my brother, Ted (STA ’95, Duke baseball, Cleveland Indians minor leagues) and me, Bob defined what it meant to be “Coach.” His life was one of service to many and dedication to excellence. The foundational impact Bob Brown had on St. Albans athletics continues to ripple well beyond the Close. We are grateful to feel his deep influence on our professional and personal lives every day.
"Tip of the cap, Coach.”
We have heard from many, many former players, colleagues and even opponents of Coach Brown with memories and anecdotes about his impact on their lives. Please see the link below to leave a tribute or share a memory of Coach Brown. There will be a visitation at 10:00am Tuesday, June 21, at Francis J. Collins Funeral Home followed by a funeral service at 11:00am at the same location. Burial at Parklawn Memorial Park will follow the funeral. Visitation and service details can also be found at the link below.