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George Mason baseball coach Bill Brown retires after 41 seasons

Bill Brown spent 45 years at George Mason as a player, assistant and head coach on its baseball team. (Art Pittman/George Mason athletics)

Bill Brown still remembers the advice his father gave him in 1981, when George Mason baseball coach Walt Masterson stepped down and turned to Brown, then his assistant, to succeed him.

Brown had only graduated from George Mason the previous year, but Masterson, a two-time major league all-star, felt the 24-year-old was ready. Brown did too, but his father’s advice sealed his decision.

“He said: ‘Hey, look, go for it. The last thing you want to do is move on and get later in life and wish you had taken that opportunity,’ ” Brown said. “So I took it, and somehow or another it ended up being 41 years worth.”

Brown stepped down after 41 seasons leading George Mason’s program, the university announced Friday. He finishes as the school’s winningest baseball coach, posting 1,083 victories across five decades.

“Billy is an iconic figure in collegiate baseball,” George Mason Athletic Director Brad Edwards said in a statement. “He has mentored and empowered countless student-athletes who have benefited from his leadership and his knowledge of the game. We recognize and honor the impactful legacy he will leave as an outstanding ambassador for Mason baseball and our university community.”

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A native of Vienna, Va., Brown grew up in a baseball family, the older brother of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Mike Brown and the son of a former Gettysburg College standout. He played baseball at Allegany Community College and the University of Georgia before arriving at George Mason, where he became an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics all-district catcher during his junior season. He earned a government and political science degree from the school in 1980 and replaced Masterson the following year, becoming the third coach in program history.

Brown, 65, earned conference coach of the year honors six times and captured a pair of Colonial Athletic Association titles. He led George Mason to the NCAA tournament seven times, with the last trip coming in 2014.

“It’s just nothing but great memories,” Brown said of his time at Mason, a period that spanned 45 years through his time as a student, assistant and head coach. “The things that I remember the most, it’s always the assistant coaches and relationships I had with them and the players. That’s what I’ll remember the most, just the guys who’ve come through the program and the different characters and how much fun it was to be around those guys.”

During Brown’s tenure, 47 of those players were drafted and another 21 signed professional contracts as free agents. His 2009 team won 42 games and saw six players taken in the MLB draft. Brown also saw six players break into the majors, including former pitcher Shawn Camp, who will serve as the Patriots’ interim coach. Brown will remain with the university in a yet-to-be-determined role.

“Baseball was a family thing. It was a big part of our lives, so I thought about this as an unbelievable opportunity,” Brown said, reflecting on the moment he accepted the head coaching job. “I wasn’t worried about getting rich, I wasn’t worried about anything except, ‘Hey, I’m going to take my shot at this.’ Forty-one years later, there it was.”