Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By MARK MALONEY Special to the Telegram
LONDON - As coach of the Boomers -- the name Australians affectionately reserve for their national men's basketball team -- Brett Brown is the man behind the team's long-shot hope for an Olympic medal.
Brett Brown, as an assistant coach and executive, has been a part of four NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, with Tim Duncan, left, and Manu Ginobili.
Bahram Mark Sobhani/San Antonio Express News
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A 1979 South Portland High graduate and son of the legendary coach Bob Brown, Brett has ties all over the basketball world, but none so strong he forgets his roots.
"I don't forget where I'm from. I have a great sense of pride coming from Maine," Brown, 51, said on the day the Olympics opened.
"Maine, to me, is very different in the large majority of the United States for a lot of reasons. Geographically, it's such a beautiful part of the world. I think people (are) very close, I think that there's a lot of integrity, a no-nonsense, no-frills type of lifestyle and mentality."
Brown's Boomers tip off against Brazil at 5:15 a.m. Sunday. Also in the Aussies' first-round pool are China and Spain.
"And that's my upbringing. That's how I was raised and that's how I started. I'm the son of a coach, a very successful high school coach in Portland, Maine -- a New England Hall of Fame coach. My basketball journey most definitely started with my father and in the state of Maine. So to be able to carry at some level the Maine flag and the representation is also an honor, and I'm proud to let basketball people in Maine share this particular experience with me."
A TRAVELING MAN
Bob Brown coached Brett Brown to a state championship at South Portland in 1979.
Father and son then moved to Boston University, where Bob served under Rick Pitino, the current Louisville coach. Brett was named team MVP as a sophomore, then served as captain as a junior and senior.
He went to Australia in the 1980s to assist Lindsay Gaze, an International Basketball Hall of Famer, with the Melbourne Tigers, and stayed for 17 years.
Brown became head coach of the North Melbourne Giants (1993-98), winning a coach of the year award and a national title in 1994. He also coached the Sydney Kings (2000-02).
He served as assistant coach of Team Australia at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and again at the 2000 Games in Sydney, missing a medal by one spot both times.
A front-office job with the San Antonio Spurs brought Brown back to the U.S. in 2002 and, since 2006, he has been an assistant coach to Gregg Popovich.
Including his time spent in the front office, Brown has been a part of four NBA championship teams.
Ask him if he considers himself more Aussie or more American and Brown has a simple answer.
"I consider myself a basketball coach, and it just so happens that I'm coaching Australia," he said. "I have a very strong (feeling) for the country. The country was very good to me. I married an Australian (Anna). Two of my three children were born in Australia.
"Not so long ago I spent half my life in Australia, and I truly feel a responsibility and an honor to coach the national team. I've had such a long history and relationship with Australia and Australian basketball that to find myself now head coach of the national program, and here getting ready to compete in the Olympic Games, is a privilege. It's something that I don't take for granted."
DREAMING OF A MEDAL
No, Brett Brown always had to work for what he wanted in Maine.
A similar outlook is what he hopes will carry his Boomers to the Olympic podium.
"That's why we're here," he said. "And I think the progress that our players (have made) over the past four years, we really feel like we can dream at that high level. That really is our focus as we begin the Olympic Games."
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