Derek Brown stood in the deserted hallway of Morgan State's Hill Field House at 11 o'clock Saturday night and tried to plot his next move. But first, he wearily shook his head and sighed loudly.
"Man, I'm tired," Brown said.
Brown's fatigue came from a 56-hour stretch in which he helped coach three games in three cities. Brown is the Coppin State men's basketball team's associate head coach, but he also became the interim coach of the women's team last week following Coach Jennie Hall's controversial resignation.
And Brown's new duties resulted in another unusual situation--the expansion of Stephanie Ready's role as an assistant coach for the men's team to include off-campus recruiting. Earlier this fall, Ready became just the second woman hired as a Division I men's basketball assistant coach (Kentucky's Bernadette Mattox--now that school's women's coach--was the first, working for Rick Pitino from 1990 to '94).
Brown knew doing two jobs simultaneously would be tough--"I'll be working about 14 hours a day," he said--but last weekend truly wore him out.
He left around noon Friday for his debut as the women's coach--Coppin State won, 85-77, at Bucknell. Brown returned to Baltimore around midnight, and on Saturday reviewed some videotape of the women's team's next opponent, then worked in the men's team's 58-57 loss at Morgan State that night. Sunday morning, he drove from Baltimore to Harrisonburg, Va., where the women's team lost a 2 p.m. game to James Madison, 83-73.
The Coppin State men are 2-9; the women are 4-6 (1-1 under Brown).
"I didn't think I'd be this tired," Brown said after the men's game against Morgan State. "Now I'm going home and get into bed, and I'll be on the road at 8 a.m."
Ron "Fang" Mitchell, Coppin State's athletic director and men's basketball coach, asked Brown to accept this burden. Brown has been Mitchell's assistant for 14 years at Coppin State and 22 years overall (the two worked together for eight years at Gloucester County College in New Jersey). The two also were childhood friends who grew up across the street from each other in Camden, N.J.
Mitchell turned to Brown when Hall, last season's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's coach of the year, resigned after a strange turn of events the weekend of Dec. 11. Hall did not show up for Coppin State's game Dec. 11 against Morgan State, and apparently didn't let Mitchell know beforehand she would miss the game. Mitchell suspended Hall indefinitely, and she resigned on Dec. 13, citing anger over Mitchell's handling of the situation.
Women's team senior Kristi Webb, mindful of the possible impact of Hall's departure on the team's hopes of winning the MEAC championship, said: "We're really focusing on ourselves. We want to stay together because if we break apart that's going to mess up everything."
Mitchell knew how taxing having two jobs would be for Brown. But he thought Brown's extensive collegiate coaching experience would serve him well as the women's coach, which was the reason Mitchell chose him to coach the team instead of top women's assistant coach Billie Harris, who is in her second season with Coppin State.
"I just thought that our women are in a very unusual position and deserved the best possible person I could put in that situation," Mitchell said. "It's definitely not a knock on Coach Harris, but it was about the experience."
Brown is fortunate the Coppin State men's and women's team's schedules don't overlap. In the MEAC, men's and women's basketball teams often play conference games as doubleheaders on Mondays and Saturdays.
Next week, however, should be another difficult one for him. The men's team plays at Marquette on Dec. 29 and the women play at Auburn the following day. Brown will fly to Alabama from Milwaukee the morning of Dec. 30, for a game that starts at 6 p.m. Harris handles the team without him. Harris and the women's team's other assistants, Ollie Matson and Charron Beckham, will lead the team's trip from Baltimore to Auburn.
Meanwhile, Mitchell said Brown has been made the restricted assistant coach for the men's team, meaning he no longer is one of the three coaches allowed to recruit off campus. Ready will be given that role as soon as she passes the NCAA's men's basketball recruiting test, joining Mitchell and Jimmy DuBose, another men's assistant in that capacity.
"I don't feel extra pressure, really," said Ready, a 1998 graduate of Coppin State who also serves as the school's volleyball coach, meaning she has a season that overlaps basketball season. "I just feel for Coach Brown because he's doing double duty--and I did a little in the fall."
As for being a woman helping to coach a high-profile men's team, she said: "I had more problems with the women on the volleyball team than I've had with the guys on the basketball team. [As a four-year member of Coppin State's women's basketball team], I've seen how Fang runs his program. It's been a smooth transition for me, and I'd like to stay."
Brown and Mitchell said they will re-evaluate the entire situation at season's end. But Brown knows that between now and then, he's facing some very long days. Because Coppin State's men's and women's teams often practice back-to-back, Brown could be on the floor from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.
In addition, there is the scouting work. Brown had precious little free time this past Saturday--and he used most of it to watch a videotape of the James Madison women's team to prepare for Sunday's game. When he finished, he drove to Morgan State for the men's game.
However, Brown smiled when asked if he's enjoying being in charge of a team for the first time in his career.
"It's a chance to do my own thing," Brown said. "I was happy with what I was doing and could have stayed that way until retirement . . . but I didn't want to turn this down."
But Howard women's coach Sanya Tyler said Mitchell and Brown should make a decision and he should do one job.
"I think it's a travesty," Tyler said. "I think he needs to do one or the other. I think the women deserve his time and attention full-time. Part of what he's doing denigrates what women's basketball should be. We've come too far."
Brown met with the women's team for the first time nine days ago and said he just wants to worry about winning basketball games--and learning players' names.
Players from both of Brown's teams have been supportive of him during the transition.
"He went into it with his eyes open," men's team senior Tyran Watkins said. "I think it was a big jump for him, and I think he wanted to try it. We're behind him 100 percent, and I think it will help the ladies to have him as coach."
Derek Brown's Itinerary
FRIDAY, DEC. 17
* Noon: Coppin State women's basketball team leaves Baltimore for 6 p.m. game with Bucknell.
* 4 p.m.: Team bus arrives at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa.
* 6 p.m.: Coppin State-Bucknell women's game begins.
* 9 p.m.: (approximately): Team leaves Bucknell for Baltimore after win over Bison.
* Midnight: Team returns to Coppin State.
* Miles traveled, round trip: 280.
SATURDAY, DEC. 18
* Noon: Brown goes to Coppin State men's team shootaround.
* 2 p.m.: Brown watches son's recreation league basketball game.
* 4 p.m.: Brown watches tape of James Madison women for Sunday's game.
* 6 p.m.: He drives to Morgan State for 7:30 p.m. men's game.
* 8:15 p.m.: Game begins 45 minutes late after women's game between Morgan State and Rider goes to overtime.
* 11 p.m.: Brown leaves Morgan State and drives home.
SUNDAY, DEC. 19
* 8 a.m.: Brown leaves Baltimore and drives to James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.
* Noon (approximately): Brown arrives at James Madison for 2 p.m. women's game.
* 2 p.m.: Coppin State-James Madison game begins.
* 5 p.m.: (approximately) Coppin State and Brown leave for Baltimore after loss to James Madison.
* 8:30 p.m.: (approximately): Return to Baltimore.
* Miles traveled, round trip: 350.
CAPTION: Derek Brown, left, works 14-hour days as Coppin State's men's associate head basketball coach and women's interim coach.
CAPTION: Brown, here with Kristi Webb, coached 3 games in 3 cities over 56 hours last week.