The St. Jude Pirates are ranked number one in class 1A Alabama boy’s basketball. As reported in another story on slamonline.com, the Pirates have arguably the top prep power forward in the nation, Jymycal Green. They have competed against some of the southeast’s best High School teams, and finished undefeated in league and area play. However, if a ship and its crew are no better than the captain who guides it, the same can be said of a basketball team and its coach. I introduce to you one of the hottest young coaches in the nation, the Captain of the St. Jude Pirate Ship, Coach William Brown.
SLAM: Coach Brown, your team is all over the internet and local and regional media outlets for its complete dominance this season. How would you access your season thus far?
Brown: It is really going how I expected; we got off to a challenging start with 7 of our 8 main players being on the football team. As a result our first complete basketball practice with a full team was literally a few days away from our first game. It did not help that those first two games were against a ranked team from Mississippi, Moss Point. And a nationally ranked top 25 team from Mobile, Leflore. But I expected that type of challenge and intentionally scheduled a tough non-conference schedule. The team stepped up however.
SLAM: Speaking of football, you have quite a bit of college level athletes playing for you. Many have been offered or accepted football and basketball scholarships. How do those attributes help your team and how have you blended all of that talent together?
Brown: I enjoy and encourage my players to play football and number of other sports. I promote to them not to put all of their eggs into one basket. It is difficult to get a basketball scholarship unless you are 6 foot 4 and above. However, football brings a mental toughness to basketball that is much needed, especially here in Alabama where the referees keep their whistle in their pocket, which I don’t mind. We have some physical guys on our team and with many of the players being on the football team, it enhances that toughness.
SLAM: St. Jude has been in the Alabama State Championship game in back to back seasons, 2006 and 2007. You won the state title in 06 and are considered the favorite to win it again this year in 08. If you are able to make it to the state championship game this year, how will it be different than the previous two appearances? Is the hunger just as strong, to get back and win it?
Brown: Definitely the hunger is still there. Last season we were also favored to win the state and we lost in the championship game after being considered the favorite and having a 20 point lead at half time. Those experiences made us eat a piece, or should I say we had an entire “humble pie” smacked in our face. I think the guys realized that you can not replace hard work and dedication with just talent alone. To know that you have to play each and every possession, regardless of whom you are playing against. That experience humbled our team, and we our anxious to redeem ourselves.
SLAM: When you walk into the “Pirate Ship”, the St. Jude gym, it is evident that you have a program by the state championship pictures and area championships on the wall. What is the difference between having a good basketball team and a program?
Brown: The main difference with having a program as compared to a good team is that you are constantly building. You are never satisfied with your past accomplishments. You move players up, your JV program is solid, and your C team is good. For example, our C team is probably the strongest in the area. So by the time they get into the 10th and 11th grade they will be ready. Our JV team did not loose a game in the New Year. Just being able to roll it over and have a new team each year that can compete and live up to tradition. Plus, we have very good support from Mr. Mitchell our principal and his administration. We also have very good support from teachers and parents, and the Montgomery community in general.
SLAM: You get very good guard play from basically a 4 guard line up; I know that you were also a good guard in college.
How has your playing experience been able to translate over into you being an effective coach? However, many good basketball players do not necessarily become good coaches. But you have been able to make that transition, why?
Brown: Well, I was in a similar situation not too long ago. I think that I can relate well to young people between the ages of 16-21 years old. I understand what it feels like to not play. I sat behind and all American up until my senior year in High School. So I know how to be patient. This is what I try to teach my guys. I also stress for my guards and all players but especially my guards to see the game through my eyes. Be a coach on the floor. You don’t have to be the most athletically inclined player on the team. If you can think the game and understand it by applying what skills and talent you do possess to game time situations you will come out on top. I will take a skilled player over an athletic player anytime.
SLAM: Finally, what advice would you give to an 8th grader who wants to be a basketball player and be able to play at a school like St. Jude or on any High School team?
Brown: I would say skill development right off the bat. For example, when you eat dinner, use the opposite hand and when you go to the bathroom use your weak hand to wipe yourself. This helps develop coordination and confidence with your off hand. It is also important that when you go to the gym work on developing your mid range game, like one dribble pull ups. I also suggest that you go to as many camps as possible to help increase your skills. Being able to shoot the basketball is a cure all; I will take a shooter any day.