OBW America East men’s basketball Coach of the Year
Will Brown, Albany
Vermont head coach John Becker did a masterful job rapidly reloading the Catamounts following the graduation of six seniors, while simultaneously overcoming injuries to key players and the horrific tragedy of the life-threatening injury to recruit Josh Speidel. That Vermont is a bona fide NCAA Tournament threat in a year they were supposed to be rebuilding cannot be over stated. New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion has reinvented his offense and himself, guiding a very young Wildcats squad to the top four in the conference in a year in which he was coaching for his job. And the job UMBC head coach Aki Thomas did motivating a skeleton crew roster racked by injuries and suspensions to keep fighting was also admirable.
In another year, we would be discussing the performances of the above mentioned trio. But not this year. Albany head coach Will Brown – the longest tenured and most decorated America East head coach – has turned in arguably the best coaching job of his career, getting every last drop out of his team while overcoming tragedy and heart break.
After leading the Great Danes to an America East Tournament Championship last year and the fourth NCAA Tournament of his career, Brown lost his starting point guard, starting small forward and best defender, and starting center to graduation. He replaced them with a trio of unproven junior college transfers thrown into the deep end of Division I hoops. On top of that, Brown lost star shooting guard Peter Hooley – the heart and soul of Albany – for nine games while Hooley returned home to be by his mother’s side as she passed away from colon cancer.
There are no words to describe the job Brown did simply dealing with such a horrific loss – and the emotional effects and aftermath on his team – and keeping them together. But there are words for dealing with that loss while guiding a team to a regular season championship, a 15-1 conference record, and a 13 game winning streak: It’s called being the Coach of the Year.