Before Keith Brown was coach Brown of the Georgetown women's basketball program, he was Mr. Brown, a sixth-grade teacher in Prince George's County.
Instead of teaching the fundamentals of a pressure defense, Brown was teaching 12-year-olds about ratios and fractions. And instead of leading the recruiting efforts of a nationally ranked collegiate program, he was leading a school with 75 percent of its students in poverty to a National Blue Ribbon award.
The difference between the two is not as large as you'd expect.
"I try to explain it like when you're teaching a math lesson and you're trying to teach kids how to find the least common denominator," he said. "Basketball's the same thing. We start to teach our defensive philosophy, and then we go from step to step to step. The scrimmage is like that mid-chapter test, and the first game on Friday will be the chapter test."
Brown's teaching abilities have come to the fore in his first season as Georgetown's head coach, one that begins Friday at home against Sacred Heart. After longtime coach Terri Williams-Flournoy left the Hilltop for Auburn in April, the Hoyas interviewed several candidates but ultimately decided to promote Brown, their top assistant coach and a former teacher of 15 years.
He inherited a young Georgetown team that lost seven seniors and 69 percent of its minutes from a season ago. With the exception of leading scorer and preseason all-conference guard Sugar Rodgers, the Hoyas' depth chart is littered with inexperience, including four freshmen and a host of upperclassmen who haven't seen significant minutes.
"When you have seven seniors, I could look at them and they knew what I was thinking and what I was saying," Brown said. "When you're dealing with this amount of kids that haven't really played, you have to be patient and teach them. It's still a learning process, and you can't forget that as a coach."
Brown has been described by his players as "intense" and "crazy in a good way" but said he's relaxed a bit since moving over one seat. He can't fault new players for making mistakes, especially so early in the season. And after being the team's disciplinarian for so long, Brown finally is feeling like a teacher again.
"A lot of teachable moments," Rodgers said of a midweek practice. "Everything you mess up, he asks you why you messed up, then he'll tell you why you messed up, then he'll ask you how to do it the right way, and then he'll make you do it the right way."
Rodgers and Brown said this year's Georgetown squad will be young but hungry. After reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, the Hoyas undoubtedly will experience growing pains -- especially in a grueling Big East Conference that features two of last year's Final Four teams in Notre Dame and Connecticut.
The potential for growth, however, is there. Rodgers led the team in scoring in 25 of its 32 games last year and is eyeing a WNBA career after this season. Senior center Sydney Wilson started all but three games in 2011 and averaged 3.2 rebounds. A defensive scheme that caused 22 turnovers per game a year ago remains intact.
Wins and losses aside, Brown knows this season will build a foundation for the next several years to come. The basketball court feels like a classroom again, and he couldn't be more excited.
"There are so many kids on the team that are hungry to play and get an opportunity, and when you have that, I think I'm going to have a chance to open a world of possibilities," Brown said. "It's like me teaching again, and I'm having the most fun I've had in a long time."
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