Projected Starting Lineup:
G – Anthony Odunsi, Jr., 6’4” 210
G – Peter Hooley, R-Soph., 6’4” 200
F – Gary Johnson, Sr., 6’6” 205
F – Sam Rowley, Jr., 6’6” 230
C – John Puk, R-Sr., 6’10” 235
What a wild roller coaster ride the Will Brown experience has been for the past 12 years. Brown’s story has been well told, but suffice to say, he inherited the job as the interim head coach in 2001 after beginning the season as a first-year assistant when the rest of the staff quit. In his first recruiting class he landed two game-changing players in Jamar Wilson and Levi Levine. Brown bailed water to barely keep the program afloat over the next two years, before turning the corner in 2004-2005 and bulldozing the league en route to the NCAA Tournament in 2006 after knocking off three-time defending champion Vermont.
A year later, the Danes went dancing again, going right into the Catamounts’ den and taking out Vermont in Vermont and the America East torch had seemingly been passed.
Then it all went so very, very wrong.
Brown started over-recruiting – reaching for players who looked the part of high-major talent, instead of the glue-guys and junk yard dogs that he’d built the program with. Albany turned into a revolving door of untapped talent that never panned out and the Great Danes dropped to third in 2008, seventh in 2009 and bottomed out in the basement at dead last in 2010.
As the losses mounted and the Danes tumbled in the standings, the rumblings grew louder and louder that Brown, the man who had built the Great Danes, was in jeopardy of losing his job.
Albany rebounded, finishing fourth in the conference at 9-7 in league play both years as Brown began to recruit some of the toughness he had built the program on, but they never seemed to be a real threat, and were routinely thrashed by the likes of Vermont, Stony Brook and Boston University. Following the 2011-2012 season, top-scorers Gerardo Suero and Logan Aronhalt left the program. Brown, who was staring down a two-year extension – given to him at the 11th hour – seemed to be standing on the precipice.
Then Albany came roaring out of the gates in 2012. The raw-talent was less than it had been the year before, but the TEAM was better. Senior point guard Mike Black and senior shooting guard Jacob Iati formed the highest scoring back court duo in the conference during non-conference play. With Black slashing to the hoop and collapsing defenses, before either finishing acrobatically, kicking to Iati for a dagger three, or dumping it to a big man for a hoop, Albany knocked off BCS program Washington at Washington and looked like the team to beat heading into league play.
Then Albany came back down to earth. Black and Iati began to wear down, and Albany finished in fifth place, once again at 9-7 in conference. The Danes were swept during the regular season by the big three of Stony Brook, Vermont and BU. Now, fans and administrators were viewing Brown as the coach who couldn’t win the big game or beat a good team.
But the old master still had some tricks up his sleeve. (more…)