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Season Preview: CHD sits down with Albany coach Will Brown

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Albany coach Will Brown about how he plans to make it back to the NCAA tourney after last year’s loss to Duke.

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You lost both of your leading scorers from last year (Mike Black, Jacob Iati): how will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these 2 seniors? I think we will be more talented this year but my two biggest concerns are the point guard position and leadership. Mike Black was a four-year starter for us and a very good player. We have some talented possibilities but they are just unproven in our program and at this level. Jacob Iati was an unbelievable leader and a “WINNER”. He had the respect of every player in the locker room. When he spoke, his teammates listened. Not sure we have another Jacob, but I hope we have a few guys who can lead by committee.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our expectations are no different than any other year. Our goal is to use the non-conference schedule to get us ready for conference play. We want to compete for an America East Conference Championship. We will have a few good teams in our conference this year and we expect to be one of them. We want to be playing our best basketball in late-February and early-March.

You played basketball at Dowling College, where you finished your career as the school’s all-time leader in assists.  What is the key to being a good PG? A point guard needs to be an extension of the coach. He needs to be able to communicate with his coach and teammates. The point guard needs to get his team in to offense and make sure he gets his teammates the ball in spots where they can be effective. It is important for the PG to know the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates: he needs to set the table! Nowadays you have a lot of scoring point guards. A scoring point guard needs to understand when it is his time and when he needs to get others involved.

You were also a great three-point shooter.  What is your secret for making shots from behind the arc? It is important to take quality shots, and also very important to be shot-ready. I always felt that running the floor hard was important because you could get a lot of good looks in transition. I also tried to feed the post a lot and relocate on the perimeter. I was able to get a lot of shots when post players would kick the ball back out to me. Technique is important but repetition and confidence is key: you always need to know the next one is going in.

In 2001 as head coach at Sullivan County Community College you lost the NJCAA title game to Cedar Valley College.  How did it feel to come so close without getting to hoist the trophy? It is tough to lose a National Championship Game. You really feel for your players and staff. We did not play well in that game, but Cedar Valley had a lot to do with that! You never know if you will get another opportunity as a player or coach.

You were hired as interim head coach at Albany in December 2001 and hired full-time in March 2002.  How did it feel be “interim”, and how excited were you to finally get the job a few months later? I was fortunate to be named “interim” coach. I figured if I did a good job that I MIGHT have a shot at getting the job on a full-time basis. If not, then I would have gained some head coaching experience at the D-1 level and possibly auditioned for other Athletic Directors and Head Coaches. I was very young and this is a tough business. My main goal was to bring our team together and compete at a very high level every day in practice and on game day.

In 2011 you received the National Sportsmanship Award for allowing a Xavier player to travel on your team bus to Cincinnati after a blizzard.  What importance do you place on sportsmanship? Sportsmanship is huge. How you run your program and how the coaching staff and players carry themselves on a daily basis is critical. We represent our families, our university, our athletic department, and the Albany community. We did not allow the player to travel with us hoping we would win a sportsmanship award: we did it because it was the right thing to do and I know Coach Mack at Xavier would have done the same thing for us.

In the 2012 CIT you had a 10-point loss to Manhattan.  What is the biggest difference between the CIT and the NCAA tourney? It is very difficult to get to the postseason. We are from a one-bid league so it is not easy to get to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is the big prize and what every young kid dreams about. However, the CIT gives you the opportunity to continue to play in a postseason tournament. It gives your program another opportunity to extend its season and it gives your seniors another opportunity to wear the uniform. Our experience in the CIT was positive and if given the opportunity in the future we would love to play in it again.

In the 2013 NCAA tourney Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee combined for 49 PTS in a win by Duke.  What did you learn from that game that you think will help you in 2014? I think we learned how good Duke really is and that Curry and Plumlee were very special players! I learned how tough and resilient we were and how determined we were to compete against a top-five program. We challenged Duke and competed at a high level. I am hoping that our returning players fully understand how difficult it really is to get to the NCAA Tournament and how great of a feeling it is to play in the NCAA Tournament.

The America East conference tourney is back in Albany next spring: how big of an advantage is that for your team? We are excited about being able to host the Conference Tourney again. It is an opportunity for us to play at home in front of our great fans. It allows for some normalcy for our players. They get to keep a normal routine for the most part. It is an advantage in regards to no travel and also allows us to stay in our comfort zone.

JonTeitel