PORTLAND—Bob Brown, who not only molded great players on Ocean Avenue, but whose influence can be felt as far away as Down Under, announced Friday that he is retiring as the boys’ basketball coach at Cheverus High School.
Brown, 74, who spent over five decades teaching the sport, winning a lot of games and entertaining fans with his sideline animation, had a difficult time with the decision, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he was ready to move on.
“I’m 74 and I felt it was time,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to coach and have people feel that I’d lost it. I only made the decision two days ago. I want to spend my last years as well as I can to do things.
“I am not resigning. I am retiring because I know that I am leaving the best coaching job in the state. The whistles will be thrown away, the coaching shoes will become tennis shoes and those endless hours on the court and with film will now be spent with family, grandkids, traveling, fishing, bridge, reading and just enjoying what is out there.
“I had outstanding kids this year. I’ll miss seeing how far the young kids will come along.”
Brown served as Cheverus coach from 2001-02 through this February, when the Stags were eliminated in the semifinals by eventual state champion Deering.
At Cheverus, Brown won 203 of 232 games, captured eight Southern Maine Activities Association crowns, four regional titles and the Class A Gold Ball in 2008 and 2010. He was named SMAA Coach of the Year three times and was also selected Coach of the Year on three occasions by The Forecaster.
His decade-plus stint at Cheverus is only part of Brown’s legacy.
Brown’s career covered 52 years and 10 different locations. He was a head high school basketball coach for 32 years and a head college coach for another 10. He also coached baseball (winning five titles), cross country, golf and even field hockey.
A graduate of Augusta’s Cony High School and Boston University, Brown’s coaching and teaching career began at Belgrade High School in 1960. He was hired as the school’s head basketball and baseball coach and guided Belgrade to two conference baseball championships. Brown returned to Cony in 1963 to teach math and coach baseball and basketball and won two more league baseball championships during his four-year stay.
He taught and coached at Williams (now Messalonskee) High School in Oakland and at Rockland District High School. He served at both schools as athletic director. In 1974, Brown succeeded Gene Hunter as the boys’ basketball coach at South Portland.
“I swore I’d never come to Western Maine basketball,” Brown said. “But Gene Hunter called and asked me to take his place and I agreed. I was also offered jobs at Cony and Presque Isle.”
With the help of his son Brett (who is now an assistant coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and head coach of the Australian Olympic basketball team), Brown led the Red Riots to three consecutive Western Maine championships and successive undefeated state championship seasons in 1979 and 1980. While at South Portland, he was named the Coach of the Year for three consecutive seasons.
In 1981 Brown joined Rick Pitino’s staff at Boston University. After two years as a Division I assistant, he became head coach at St. Anselm’s College.
Brown later returned to Maine and coached Edward Little for one season before going to the University of Southern Maine’s men’s team, which he led to a 62-24 mark in three years. That included a trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1989.
In 1990, Brown returned to BU, this time as the head coach. He came back to the high school ranks in 1996 at Bonny Eagle, where he coached for three seasons.
In 32 years as a high school coach, Brown won 476 games, 15 league championships, seven regional crowns, four state titles and failed to make it to at least the semifinals on only four occasions. Add in his college stints and Brown finishes his coaching career with a record of 618-298.
“I started in a school with 57 kids,” Brown said. “I’ve been on a magical merry-go-round. Things just happened and I had great opportunities. I’ve coached in six different decades. I’ve been blessed being with the right people in the right places.”
Brown received Coach of the Year honors at the state, conference, regional and local level 21 times. He has also had the honor to have coached the State of Maine All-Star game on nine different occasions.
Needless to say, Brown will be missed at Cheverus.
‘Bob’s goal was not just to teach players the game he loves, but to use the game to teach boys to be men,” said Cheverus athletic director Gary Hoyt. “Bob always asked much of his players but more of himself. His high standards have given him an equally high place in the hearts of his players and colleagues. Generations of basketball players can testify to his passion for the game and more importantly, his dedication to his players. I will miss a truly gifted educator, friend and colleague.”
“This is a sad day not only for the Cheverus community but for everyone in Maine who enjoys high school basketball,” added (Rev.) William R. Campbell, S.J., the school’s President. “Although he is known around the state as a fierce competitor, Coach Brown is, more importantly, known and respected as a man of integrity and character, both on the court and off. He has been a strong and positive influence on everyone here at Cheverus and he will be greatly missed.”
Brown said that his time at Cheverus was special.
“A special thanks goes out to the entire Cheverus community for being there for me and my teams for the past 11 years,” Brown said.
Brown also taught clinics in Australia, Finland, Greece, Italy and New Zealand, served as a consultant to various professional basketball teams in Australia and Finland and was a co-founder of the present Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
Brown’s contributions to Maine basketball have been recognized by the naming of the annual Maine Basketball Coaches Association Contributors Award in his honor. The award is given annually to a person who has made a significant contribution to the game of basketball in the state.
Brown was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, the Maine State Hall of Fame in 2010, the University of Southern Maine Hall of Fame in 2010, the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honors in 2011.
“There are so many highlights,” said Brown. “So many good kids. Going to the Final Four with USM was extraordinary. Sitting on a stage in Greece with (North Carolina coaching legend Dean Smith) was spectacular. I’ve been lucky enough to be inducted into different Hall of Fames.”
Brown and his wife of 52 years, Bonny, live in Scarborough. In addition to son Brett, they have a daughter, Barbra, and seven grandchildren.
Hoyt had no comment on Brown’s successor, but Dan Costigan, Brown’s longtime assistant, could have the inside track.
“I’d be surprised if Costigan doesn’t continue the program,” Brown said. “I know the program will be in good hands.”
After more than a half-century on the sidelines, Bob Brown has retired as Cheverus’ boys’ basketball coach.