The men’s basketball team from Down Under will have Down East leadership on the road to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Brett Brown, a 1979 graduate of South Portland High School and the son of veteran Cheverus of Portland coach Bob Brown, has been named head coach of the Australian men’s basketball team, known as the Boomers, through to London 2012.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity for me,” said the Brown on Tuesday from San Antonio, where he currently serves as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Spurs.
Basketball Australia announced Tuesday its hiring of the 48-year-old Brown, who also has extensive experience with both the Australian national team and that country’s National Basketball League.
Brown served as an assistant coach with the Australian national team between 1995 and 2003 including its participation at the 1998 FIBA World Championships and the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
He was a head coach in the NBL from 1993 to 2002, and was named the coach of the year in 1994 when he led the North Melbourne Giants to the league championship.
Former NBA player Andrew Gaze, who was on the three-man selection panel, said Brown’s global connections and focus were a big factor in his appointment to replace Brian Goorjian, the Australian head coach from 2002 to 2008.
“I think his vision of how to incorporate his role with the Spurs and the NBA to assist in the development of our players and provide international opportunities with the summer league camps that they’re involved in, is one that is great for their development but I think is also exciting for the players to be involved in,” Gaze said.
Brown was a two-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team choice during his high school days, as the point guard led South Portland to the 1978 Western Maine Class A championship and the 1979 Class A state crown.
He played collegiately at Boston University under current Louisville coach Rick Pitino and was named the team’s MVP as a sophomore before serving as a team captain as a junior and a senior.
“It’s really been a different route,” said Brown. “From playing for my father in Maine to playing for coach Pitino at BU, then spending a few years in business before I realized it wasn’t my passion.
“Then I made my way overseas, and kind of tripped into the coach that got me going, and that led to me spending 15 years in Australia, meeting my wife over there and coaching in two Olympics.”
During his international coaching travels Brown also met Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich, which led to his joining the NBA ranks in 2002. He served as an assistant coach/director of player development until moving to the bench full time as an assistant coach beginning with the 2006-07 season.
“Brett Brown has been paramount to the success of the San Antonio Spurs over the past decade and I am confident his technical and people skills will be well received by the team and organization. He is both a top-notch coach and person,” said Popovich.
Brown will continue to work with the Spurs throughout the NBA season, which does not conflict with the international basketball season from July to September.
The Australian national team will feature the likes of Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks and Patrick Mills, who plays collegiately at St. Mary’s (Calif.).
Brown will field an Australian team in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League this summer, and then will have the team train at the Spurs’ facility in San Antonio before heading off to tournaments in Argentina and Brazil and then squaring off against New Zealand at the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship.
“I’m extremely grateful to the Spurs for allowing me to do this,” he said.