Life Is a Winning Season for Baseball Head Coach

Posted: June 22, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: June 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

By James Greif

Baseball head coach Bill Brown. Mason Athletics photo

Baseball head coach Bill Brown. Mason Athletics photo

When Bill Brown became head coach of Mason’s varsity baseball team 28 years ago, the university had 13,000 students enrolled and 19 buildings on its campuses.

Now the university has more than 30,000 students and 150 buildings across its campuses and locations.

As a former Mason player, alumnus (BA Government and Politics ’80), assistant coach and head coach, Brown has truly seen Mason grow and change over his long career.

But this past season was especially memorable for Brown. Six of his players ― a Mason record ― were snapped up in the Major League Baseball draft.

Catcher Chris Henderson was named first team all-American and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) defensive player of the year. Outfielder Scott Krieger and pitcher Mike Modica were named to the second team all-American.

In addition, the team had the second-best regular season winning percentage in Division I and set a school record for wins and winning percentage. The team’s record of 42-12 earned the squad an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament even after the Patriots lost twice in the double-elimination CAA tournament.

Not surprisingly, this year Brown garnered the CAA Coach of the Year honor — his sixth and a CAA record.

While the Patriots bowed out of the NCAA tournament last month with losses to South Carolina and Binghamton, Brown is undeniably proud of his team in what could be called the best season in school history.

This season Bill Brown was named CAA Coach of the Year for the sixth time. Mason Athletics photo

This season Bill Brown was named CAA Coach of the Year for the sixth time. Mason Athletics photo

What has surprised you the most about Mason since you first came here as a student-athlete?

The size and the scope of the university doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but it still stuns me. As someone who has tried to explain who and what we are at Mason to recruits for 28 years, I have found it really is exciting to have been through the entire transformation up until now. Now is as exciting a time on campus as I have ever seen with the ongoing change — the campus is truly becoming an all-encompassing community for the students. Everything is here for any student, not just a student-athlete, seeking excellence!

You have one of the longest tenures at the same school of any coach in the NCAA. What has kept you at Mason?

It has become a rarity for a coach to stay at one school for as long as I have been at Mason. The only way it can happen is with incredible support from the top down, and both [President] Dr. Merten and [Athletic Director] Tom O’Connor have been nothing less than fantastic in their support of our program. Mason obviously holds a very special place in my heart, but it ultimately is always about people. The relationships I have been fortunate to develop with co-workers and the players who have come through the program make Mason a great place for me to be.

What does the team’s success this year mean to you?

I have spent my entire adult life being associated with Mason, the athletic department and our baseball program. This season has been incredibly gratifying because this team set some very specific goals about what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to put ourselves in a position to play in the NCAA tournament, and there are only two ways to go about it ― win the CAA Tournament or win enough games to be considered for an at-large berth. Our 42 wins this year gave us the opportunity to play in the tournament as an at-large team, something that took an incredible amount of dedication and determination. I am extremely proud of this team both as a coach and an alum.

Can you talk about the number of juniors and seniors on this team and how that experience contributed to the season’s success?

The experience of this team was certainly a factor in our success. Ultimately, it is about the ability to compete at the highest level, but it is a nice luxury to have the experience of 500 at bats or 150 innings pitched to fall back on in game situations. Experience brings confidence because a player has probably been in the situation he finds himself in at any given time in a game — a “been-there and done-that” scenario. It allows a player to get to a comfort level that lets him relax and perform at critical times in a game.

What would it take for a team from the CAA or a similar conference to go far in the College World Series?

The role of the mid-major will continue to be a factor in the NCAA Tournament. There is no question in my mind that a team from the CAA can land in Omaha. We have seen over the years some mid-majors become huge factors in regional and super regional play, as well as some unlikely names in the College World Series. Southern Miss is heading to Omaha this year, and most critics felt they were a bubble team, at best, to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Over the years you have led the Patriots to nearly 800 wins. What qualities do successful teams have, and what does it take to maintain that success?

Successful teams must have the ability to make special things happen. We all would like to think it is our coaching, but it is always about the players. That being said, there are plenty of teams with talent that never reach their potential. For a team to achieve real success there are other factors that need to come into play, such as leadership, character, energy, passion, common sense of purpose, unselfishness and a true love of playing. Ability is critical, but it is also critical that the players take ownership and shape their own destiny.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu