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Al Brown enters his 12th season alongside Joanne P. McCallie and ninth on the Duke University staff after being hired on May 2, 2007. Since arriving in the coaching world 37 years ago, Brown has produced numerous winning teams and is widely considered one of the best basketball minds in the game today.
Brown has been a part of three NCAA Championships, four NCAA runner-up teams, eight NCAA Final Four squads and 24 NCAA Tournaments. He has coached men’s and women’s basketball at 11 different schools including Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Western Michigan, Ball State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Cleveland State, Michigan State and Duke since taking his first assistant coaching position at Purdue in 1967.
His record in women’s basketball speaks for itself as his squads have won 80 percent of their games, advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 19 of 21 years, and won three NCAA titles. Brown has led three teams to the NCAA Championship game a total of seven times and won 80 percent of league contests.
In his eight years with the Blue Devils, Brown coached Chante Black, Krystal Thomas, Kathleen Scheer, Elizabeth Williams and Carrem Gay, who are currently playing professionally. This past year, Williams was the No. 4 overall selection by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Draft. Black was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun, Gay signed with professional teams in Israel and Switzerland in 2009-10, Scheer was signed by the Bendigo Bank Spirit of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in Australia and Thomas was selected by the Seattle Storm in 2011. He also coached Joy Cheek, who was drafted by the Indiana Fever in 2010 and is now an assistant coach at Ohio State. Brown has helped guide Duke to a 225-53 record in eight years with the Blue Devils, while advancing to the NCAA Tournament all eight years and winning the ACC Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Since Brown and head coach Joanne P. McCallie have arrived at Duke, 10 Blue Devils have been drafted in the WNBA, which is the most by any Division I institution.
Brown is known for his video breakdowns and opponent analysis, as well as his on-court teaching expertise, which has proven to be a valuable contribution to the success of every basketball team he has coached. He was recognized for his coaching expertise when he was named one of the top assistant coaches in the country in a poll conducted by the Women’s Basketball Journal.
He has had an interesting and unique career as he is the only coach in the history of intercollegiate athletics to have played an active role in national championship games in three different sports, including five appearances as a coach in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game. Brown is also the only coach to coach men’s and women’s basketball in the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten Conference at two different schools in each conference. Also, he is the only coach in college basketball history to coach in the men’s (1969, Purdue vs. UCLA) and women’s national championship game (Tennessee, 1996-98, 2000; Michigan State, 2005).
Brown has 21 years of college coaching experience in the women’s game and 16 years in the men’s game. On the men’s side, he has coached five teams at two schools in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 three times, the Elite Eight twice and the final game once.
Brown was the motivational speaker for the Tennessee football team throughout the 1998 season. Coach Phillip Fulmer, the former head coach at Tennessee, asked him to speak to the team in Tempe, Ariz., before the Fiesta Bowl National Championship game. Brown was on the field in the coaching box during the Vols’ victory over Florida State in the title game.
During his seven years in the women’s program at Tennessee (1995-2002), the Lady Vols went to the NCAA Final Four five times, playing in the national title game four times, and won an NCAA record three consecutive national championships (1996-98). Over that seven-year period, the Lady Vols went 224-29, good for an 89 percent winning percentage. He was a part of five consecutive Southeastern Conference championship teams, during which time Tennessee posted a league record of 67-3.
During his first year at Michigan State, the Spartans won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, went to the NCAA Championship game for the first time in school history and won a school-record 33 games. During his three years at Michigan State, the squad produced an 81-23 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament each of those three years. In the Big Ten, the Spartans notched a 38-10 mark and finished no lower than third each year.
A 1964 graduate of Purdue, Brown was a three-year letterwinner on the Boilermaker basketball team before making the switch to the coaching ranks as an assistant coach with his alma mater in 1967. Brown served three seasons at Purdue before moving to Ball State, where he was an assistant for five seasons (1977-1982).
He then spent five years (1982-87) as the head coach at Ball State. His 1986 Cardinal team had a record-setting year, posting 21 wins en route to the Mid-American Conference tournament championship and the school’s second berth in the NCAA Tournament. The first time Ball State advanced to the NCAA Tournament was when Coach Brown was an assistant.
After spending the 1987-88 season assisting at Western Michigan, Brown served on the staff at Minnesota for three years (1988-1991), where the Gophers advanced to two NCAA Sweet 16’s and one NCAA Elite Eight, before moving on to the men’s program at Tennessee for the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
Coach Brown has recruited and coached some outstanding players. The first Walter Byers Scholarship winner and the 1984 Naismith Award winner, an award given to the best player in the nation under six feet, were two of Brown’s recruits. He has coached 10 NBA players and 12 women who are playing in the WNBA, plus numerous players who have played overseas.
Brown and his wife, Karen, have one son, Edwin. Edwin and his wife, Erica, reside in Hopkinton, Mass., with their son, Simon, and daughter, Fiona.