Will Brown stays with Patroons after flirting with return to college

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Albany Patroons head coach and general manager Will Brown said he considered leaving the team to return to the college basketball ranks midway through last season.

Brown, the former University at Albany coach, stayed with the Patroons and directed them to The Basketball League Finals in July. They fell one win short of a championship in an overtime loss to the Shrevport Mavericks at Washington Avenue Amory.

“Kills me,” Brown said Thursday. “Every single day. I’ve had players call me and tell me how much it still hurts them. When I have players call me and tell me how much that it still bothers them, it shows me how much they really care and how much they enjoyed playing for us and with us.”

They’ll get that chance again next season under Brown, who is staying with the Patroons on a one-year deal under new ownership and for a significant pay raise for his second season in professional basketball. The Patroons announced the move on Wednesday.

“Absolutely, not even close,” said Brown, asked if he’ll be making more money than last season. He declined to go into specifics.

He’ll work under an ownership group that includes Sam and Rebecca Clifford, Joe Carl, and Stephanie Golinski under the name Phoenix Sports Management. Clifford and Carl are also co-owners of 518 Donuts, a Patroons sponsor. They bought the rights to operate the franchise “for the next few seasons,” according to the Patroons news release, and will continue to play at the Armory.

“Obviously, I’m going to help them with anything pertaining to the organization,” Brown said. “My main objective and my main responsibility is to put the best team together that I can to represent the Patroons, to manage the salary caps and contracts, and obviously to promote the Patroons as much as I can and just help them out in the community with some marketing and be like a sounding board for them to bounce ideas off and help them make decisions.”

Brown said the new owners want to “take this to a whole other level,” increasing the front-office staff and filling the Armory on a nightly basis.

He said he had head coaching offers from non-Division I colleges he didn’t identify about halfway through last season. If he’d left, he might have been replaced by his assistant Brian Beaury, the former College of Saint Rose coach. But after getting a counterproposal from Patroons president Michael Corts, Brown discussed it with his wife, Jamie, and decided to stay with the Patroons.

Brown said he had a handshake agreement to stay with the Patroons next season. Then he found out owner Ben Fernandez, who also owns the Armory, wanted to sell the team. Brown said he was asked if was interested in ownership, and after saying no, the Phoenix Sports group closed the deal. They retained Brown after exchanging proposals, including a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, Brown said.

He said he plans to bring back assistants Beaury, Don Bassett and Julie McBride.

Brown said a major factor in renewing with the Patroons is staying close to his sons Jackson, a sophomore guard/forward at Sage, and Landon. At Patroons games, Jackson worked the scorer’s table and Landon was on the bench. His wife took a job last year she really enjoys.

“Ultimately, what this came down to, yes, I enjoyed coaching the talent and a different set of rules and really enjoyed the coaching staff,” Brown said. “What it really came down to for me … is I had an opportunity for the first time in forever to see my older son play every college game he played home or away, and I didn’t miss one game my 12-year-old played unless I was on the road at my older son’s game. I didn’t realize how much of an impact that made on my two boys.”

That said, Brown said he hasn’t closed the door on returning to college coaching, whether it’s a head coaching opportunity at any level or a “really unique and special” Division I assistant position. He said he turned down a Big East assistant offer right after UAlbany didn’t bring him back following 20 seasons and five NCAA Tournament berths.

“Coaching at the pro level, I think, has helped me become a better coach because it’s a completely different game and also one of my biggest weaknesses has always been my lack of patience. It helped me become a more patient coach,” Brown said. “I say I’m a college guy at heart, but for me, it has to be a really good college situation for me and my family.”

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