Will Brown’s Secret Championship Sauce

Albany has won four America East championships under head coach Will Brown, which ties him with Naismith Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun for the most conference championships. 

Albany head coach Will Brown has won four America East conference tournament championships, putting him in elite company. (Photo Courtesy: America East)

“He’s a great coach when it comes down to winning those games that we absolutely need to and he’s shown that in the last few years,” senior Sam Rowley said. “On our highlight tape they showed his speech before our Florida game where he just reiterated the fact that nobody really believed we were going to win and he had faith in us and everybody in our locker room had faith in us.”

“I think when you know you have that support and that backing, from not just your teammates but from your coaches, that it goes a long way in the end.”

Last season saw the Great Danes win their first NCAA tournament game in program history, a first round victory over Mount St. Mary’s in Dayton. Brown said one thing he likes to do during tournament time is keep his players loose, which in his case required guards to try to make three-point shots from their knees and having guards versus forwards shooting competitions at their open workout prior to their game against top-seeded Florida.

“I think what happened is our guys saw me, I made it a priority to loosen up a little bit and we would do some fun things,” Brown said. “We’re getting ready for Stony Brook the America East conference championship game and [the] TV guys are like, what the heck are these guys doing when they’re shooting hook shots from half court.”

“I think that it’s such a long year, we’ve got to break down that season and make sure they’re not just fresh and enjoying themselves at the end of the year, it’s got to be all year long. I think we lose sight of that, I know I do. I think we’ve got to keep them fresh mentally and fresh physically so when its time to step on the court the day of the game they’re fresh, they’re ready.”

Of course that looseness could be easier to remember given winning results after being down 9-0 early in two straight conference championship games.

“We can laugh about it now, when we got down 9-0, I called a timeout,” Brown said. “We were laughing in the huddle, we were smiling and joking and I said, ‘hey got them right where we want them, just like last year.'”

Junior Peter Hooley, who had 20 points in their first round victory, said that their back-to-back NCAA tournament experiences have made them hungrier for a possible three-peat.

“We have a chance to be two of the most decorated players that have ever been here,” Hooley said of himself and his teammate Rowley. “To win three would be an awesome experience. [Sam’s] got one year left and I have two, so I said last year I wanted to send the seniors out the right way and they were pretty close friends of mine. This guy is pretty close up there as well.”

However, when it comes to any formula for that success, when the stakes are the highest Rowley said it is his calmness under pressure and his confidence that come to mind the most.

“I think it’s the fact that he actually doesn’t act that differently, he doesn’t get too worked up,” Rowley said of Brown’s demeanor in a championship game “The way he portrays it is that this is just another game, if we go out and sort of play the way we’ve played every other game during the season, we will come out on top and that sort of trickles down to the rest of the team that we can’t get too nervous.”

“He has history on his side, his record in championship games is what, 4-0 I think which certainly gives us confidence in him, in ourselves, in each other. Just in the way that he’s done things; it’s proven to sort of work out and then if history tells us anything, hopefully it repeats itself, which we’ve been fortunate enough to experience that it has.”

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

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