Veteran coach Mike Brown ready to rebuild Hilltoppers

August 1, 2017

Shawe Memorial’s 28-month search for a new boys head basketball coach came to an end Monday and the Hilltoppers think the coach they hired is well worth the wait. Shawe introduced veteran high school basketball coach Mike Brown, a Madison native with 463 wins in more than 30 years on the sidelines, as the man to grab the struggling Hilltoppers by the seat of their pants and lift them back into contention. After going 20-4 and reaching regional finals under former coach Jerry Bomholt’s final campaign in 2010-11, Shawe has reeled off six straight losing seasons going just 31-105 along the way. The Hilltoppers’ coach the past two seasons, Prince of Peace Catholic Schools President Phil Kahn Jr., took the job on an interim bases in 2015 when a newly hired coach bailed on the school just days after taking the job. Kahn’s teams went 5-42 over the last two seasons as he juggled both jobs while the school continued to look for the right coach to move the program forward. Based on Brown’s history of doing just that with program after program, it’s easy to see why the Hilltoppers can’t wait to get started. A 1974 graduate of Madison and later Kentucky Wesleyan, Brown has been building programs throughout his coaching career - from his first job at Christian Academy of Louisville in 1985, to a 294-113 run over 14 years at Paoli, to a 118-61 eight-year stint at Crawford County. Along the way, Brown has taken struggling programs like Shawe and used his ground-up approach to build conference and state championship contenders by building from the elementaries up and then reaping the rewards of that foundation. In 14 years at Paoli, the Rams won nine conference championships, nine sectionals, seven regionals, a semistate and a state runner-up. In eight years at Crawford County the Wolfpack went from a 7-14 team to a program that was 19-4 in 2011-12, 18-4 in 2014-15 and the sophomores he coached that season made a run to the Class 2A state finals last year just two years after his departure for South Dearborn. And now he’s ready to do the same at Shawe. “You start at the bottom, make it fun and keep them involved constantly doing something with all of the lower grade levels. Then in a few years you start to see a benefit to that and then it’s fun to come to basketball games and support your team,” Brown said of his philosophy. “Shawe has done that in baseball and soccer and basketball and tennis and golf in the past. They have had times when they have done that. What I want to do is get that started and start seeing the benefits of our hard work and be in a situation like some of the other schools that I’ve been at that once you get it started it runs itself. You’ve got that tradition there where kids expect to win and expect to compete and represent their school well.” Brown has spent the past two seasons commuting from his home in Madison to Aurora and South Dearborn where he’s taught junior high physical education and coached. But now in his 60s and close to retirement as a teacher, Brown said the opportunity to maybe not teach and instead focus on coaching the Hilltoppers started looking more and more appealing. “I’m going to teach at South Dearborn another year and then retire and just coach,” Brown said. “This is a perfect situation for me. I want to coach another six or seven years, build this program back up and then retire and leave a really nice situation for the next guy.” Brown, who has turned down offers to return home to Madison and coach at his alma mater in the past, said simply the timing was never right for those offers like it is now at Shawe. “I was offered the Madison job twice over the years and it was just poor timing both times - either on their part or mine,” Brown said. “Coaching is like any other job, it’s timing, it’s what you want, it’s family and you make decisions. Coaching is glamorized a little more because you are in the paper some, but it’s no different than a guy who works out here in the factories and gets a chance to move to Indianapolis for a little bit better paying job but he’s got to move all of his kids and they’re in school and he doesn’t want to do that. But it is kind of strange that it ends up right here.” “We are very excited to be able to announce the hiring of Mike Brown as our new boys basketball coach at Shawe,” Shawe Athletic Director Stephen Sims said. “The resume speaks for itself. Coach Brown will bring a system that has worked at several locations and we believe that it can work at Shawe as well. The players, parents, assistant coaches, and administrators are all excited to see Coach Brown in action and see where he can take our program. “I would like to thank Phil Kahn for stepping in when we needed him as interim head coach,” Sims added. “We wanted to make sure we found the right person for the job, and we believe we did just that with Coach Brown.” “Phil and I have been friends for a long time and I knew the struggle he has had trying to do everything he’s doing,” Brown said. “It’s tough, man. I’m in a situation here where very shortly I can do nothing but coach if I want to do that and the question is where do I want to try to do that. First of all I wanted it to be close to home, second of all I started out at a private school in Louisville and loved that setting and those kind of kids. I thought this may be a situation where we can make it work.” Brown met with his players and parents Monday - from Pope John Elementary all the way up to the high school - and told them the rebuild is not going to be easy but it will be fun and the time is now to get started. “We’ve lost the entire summer and my system will be a little different than Coach Kahn’s,” Brown told the group. “We’re way behind and we won’t catch up over night but we will get there.” Brown said he was OK with basketball players being involved in other sports and activities as long as they made time for basketball along the way. He said he wants players in the gym shooting but not playing weekly and to be ready to go when practice starts in November. Brown’s philosophy is simple at its roots - the team must always come before the individual - and with that the system involves a lot of players in a lot of rolls and understanding and embracing that concept is the key to meshing as a team. “Man I’m into the role player,” he said. “You’re going to have those guys who play a lot who are obsessed with basketball and they’re going to be some of your key parts but the other key parts are those guys who are great athletes on the soccer field, haven’t played much but he’s quick, he can defend, he can rebound and run. Those are the ones you need to be able to fill in with to make your numbers and make you a stronger program. “You build everybody a role that they really want to fulfill and get some credit for it,” Brown added. “If you can do that you’ll get the best athletes in the school out and you’ll have the numbers.” And Brown has made that system work to turn program after program around. “We’re way behind this year ... in three or four years we should be competitive in the conference, competitive in our sectional and have winning seasons,” Brown said on his best guess for a timeline. “It may happen before that. I’m not very patient but I realize sometimes you have to be. This year, for sure, we’re starting so far behind. It would have been great to have them all summer here so some of my system would already be in place. We’ve got all these guys playing soccer so November when our first practice starts I will see them on the floor for the first time to where I can really teach them.” Although Brown’s coaching career spans parts of four decades one of the constants throughout has been the way his intensity as a coach carries over to his teams - even during a four-year stint with the Paoli Lady Rams where his teams were 49-39 and fell just a double overtime loss to North Knox from winning a sectional. “I’m sure I’ve calmed down in some ways. I don’t get near as many technicals as I used to get but I still like being involved. That’s the fun of it,” he said. “You work and work and then you put what you have on the floor against somebody else and it’s a prize fight every time you play - to my opinion it is. But the biggest part is competing and having kids you really feel like are putting it all out there and not afraid.”