By: Kimberly Veale
Discipline. Fundamentals. Details. Bronco assistant coach Rich Brown '77 will be the first to tell you that the Santa Clara women's basketball team will be paying full attention to them this season.
He also believes that it's the little things — the nuances of the sport — that separate the good teams from the great teams. This year will be all about discipline to take care of the little things.
"What I've learned is that the game hasn't changed that much," said Brown. "It's still all about fundamentals. It's keeping your butt down, it's moving when the ball moves, it's denying passing lanes. If you execute it properly, people have trouble running offense against you."
Brown understands team defense, and his addition to the Bronco coaching staff will most certainly benefit the Broncos. "We were near the bottom of the league in defense last year," said Brown. "My philosophy is team defense. You have to play team defense, and you've got to play help defense."
Brown has welcomed the challenge of improving the Broncos defense. "My job is to get them to understand that if you're guarding your person and that's all your doing, you're hurting the team not helping the team," said Brown. "It's all about being on the right line, the right angles – and it's making passes not be open so that they have to do something else with [the ball] that they don't want to do. My goal is to get us in the upper tier defensively. If we can be in the upper tier defensively with what we want to do, the wins will take care of themselves."
Brown, a 1977 graduate of Santa Clara, played football for the Broncos and shortly after graduation, transitioned into coaching. Along the way, he picked up some valuable lessons. Bob Rule, a local coach, coached Brown's daughter's AAU team, and the two became friends. Santa Clara alum, Kurt Rambis '80, was also very instrumental in Brown's growth. "They taught me how to tie it all together," said Brown. "There is a difference being able understand it and being able to teach it. So being able to make that transition from knowing it to getting your player to know it and do it the same way are two totally different things. They both have taught me that."
Another good friend of Brown's – Santa Clara women's basketball head coach Jennifer Mountain – will be sharing in the coaching experience. Mountain is a close family friend of Brown and his wife, and coached their daughter, Cheyenne, at Gonzaga prior to coming to the Mission Campus. "We've known each other quite awhile," said Brown. "Some people you click with. Jen's a great person. The friendship with her and our family just clicks."
Brown and Mountain teaming up on the Santa Clara staff this season will offer a unique perspective to their coaching approach. "We can disagree on a subject, going back and forth and tell each other what we aren't looking at," said Brown. "But, as a head coach, one of the things that you have to know is that your assistant coaches totally have your back. So once we come to an agreement on what we think is best for the team, then we have to have her back 100 percent. Jen knows that. She knows that I will push her on stuff that I think is right. She'll either agree or push back, but eventually we will come to a decision and stick to it."
The Santa Clara family, as Brown says, is what makes this campus and this collegiate experience unique. As a recruiter and advocate for the school and athletic program, Brown recognizes that he offers a perspective different to most coaches. "Everyone wants the best for their kid," said Brown. "In order for it to be best for the kid, its got to be the best for the school. You can't force an athlete to come to Santa Clara if they want to be on a 60,000 kid campus," said Brown. He added, "I think I have a semi-unique experience when we are recruiting. I can tell people, 'I went to Santa Clara, I loved it here. My son went to Santa Clara, he loved it here. My daughter played for the head coach here, and she's a great person and coach.' I've had experience from the student side, the coaching side, and the parenting side of a student and a student-athlete. I've got a pretty good view of the life of a Santa Clara student."
The nuances of the sport, coaching, and the nuances of Santa Clara – Brown is all about both. Shot clock violations. Denying the passing lane. The family atmosphere at Santa Clara. Working with the student-athletes, pushing them to really understand the little things in the game. Knowing that it finally clicked for them. "It's the little things – it's having your hands up on defense, which is such a simple thing, but when you've been playing for 30 minutes and it's the last 10 minutes of the game and you have to get your hands up, you don't want to because you're tired. It's that discipline that you've learned in practice, so you do it anyway. It makes discipline not a bad word, but a good word, and that's the difference."
The biggest thing Brown highlights for this year's team is that it doesn't matter if they are playing Stanford or an exhibition game. "It's all about us," said Brown. "If we do the little things and play defense, and we'll be okay. Whatever happens, happens. If some kid comes in here and goes for 40 against us and is throwing up everything she has, that's one thing. But it's about us doing the team things, which are the right things, and the wins will come. If we're doing the right things, everything will be okay, and if we aren't doing the right things, then we need to make adjustments until we are."