by Allen Einstein
Herb Brown 57 couldnt wait any longer. He had to find out
if he was good enough to play basketball for his new school. The incoming
freshman had foregone scholarship offers from Rider, High Point, and Brandeis
on the gamble that he could make it as a non-scholarship player on longtime
Catamount coach John C. Fuzzy Evanss team.
The decision to bring his game to Burlington was made after attending
a summer camp with Vermont stars Earl The Duck Steinman 55
and Keith Jampolis 55. The future UVM Athletic Hall of Famers convinced
Brown that Vermont was a great place to go to school and play basketball.
he arrived on campus, the 5-foot-10 guard from Long Island laced up his
sneakers and headed over to UVMs basketball proving ground
a popular outdoor court behind Old Mill. To his surprise, three scholarship
freshmen from the class of 57 Arthur Skip Burkhardt,
Wilbur Mann, and Richard Dennis were already there.
They asked me who I was and if I was on scholarship. I said no,
but that I wanted to walk on, recalls Brown. I wasnt
a great player, but after we played for a while, I felt like I could play
with them. I was a left-handed playmaker who couldnt shoot a lick,
although I wasnt as bad a shooter as Dennis Rodman (whom Brown later
coached in Detroit).
Though earning a spot on the UVM team would be a shining moment for Herb
Brown as a player, his greatest achievements in the game have been as
a coach. Over the course of some 50 seasons in the sport, he has risen
to the highest levels, including the 2004 NBA Championship he helped bring
to Detroit as an assistant coach under his brother Larry Brown.
Although many were surprised by Detroits dismantling of the Los
Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals, Brown says he felt like the pieces were
in place after acquiring Rasheed Wallace from Atlanta. The 4-1 series
blowout gave Brown another championship ring to go along with the ones
he earned as a scout for Chicago in 1992 and 1993, during Michael Jordans
In July, less than one month after the championship, Brown continued his
travels as an NBA journeyman by accepting an offer from newly hired Hawks
Coach Mike Woodson, a fellow assistant under Larry Brown in Detroit, to
be his top assistant. Atlanta will be Browns seventh NBA employer,
following stops in Houston, Phoenix, Indiana, Chicago, Philadelphia, and
Its like selling real estate, Brown says. Its
all about location, location, location. Youve got to be in the right
place at the right time. Ive been very fortunate.
Ironically, being an NBA coach wasnt Browns goal after graduating
from UVM. After spending time in the Army and earning a masters
degree in education from Yeshiva University, he entered the coaching ranks
in 1960 as an assistant at C.W. Post.
Four years later, he started the basketball program at Stony Brook University,
now an America East rival of UVM. Another well-known Vermont alum, Rollie
Massimino 56, followed Brown as head coach there, 14 years before
he would lead Villanova to the 1985 NCAA Championship.
I got a good foundation at UVM, says Brown, who stays in touch
with his college roommates and fraternity brothers from Phi Sigma Delta.
It was a great place with great professors, great academics and
great students. You knew everyone. I made some lifelong friends. It was
four of the best years I ever spent.
Browns career has also taken him around the globe, and some of his
fondest coaching memories are from places like Spain, Puerto Rico, Pakistan,
and Israel. He took the Israel Sabres, a team that included former Celtic
M.L. Carr, to the European Professional Basketball League championship
in 1975. These experiences helped Brown realize that he doesnt have
to be in the NBA to be happy, as long as he is teaching young men about
life and the game he loves.
There are only 29 teams in the NBA and Ive been very fortunate
to have worked for some of them, says Brown, whose third book, tentatively
titled Lets Talk Defense, comes out this year from McGraw-Hill.
But it can be just as rewarding coaching at other levels. I love
what I do. I want to keep coaching on this level as long as I can. I dont
think Id make a very good retiree.
Brown reached basketballs highest level in 1976 when he became head
coach of the Detroit Pistons. Despite leading the Pistons to back-to-back
playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history, he was fired
after two seasons.
It was a devastating thing at the time, says Brown, known
as a great defensive coach with a knack for developing overachieving teams.
But rejection is part of the business. It increased my resolve.
You just have to find a different way to get to where you want to be.
by Bill DiLillo
The scene on the television had Jesse Cormier 95 mesmerized. The
image of 6,000 screaming fans crammed into Centennial Field for the first
round of the NCAA mens soccer tournament was working its way into
the permanent memory of the high school junior from Hoosick Falls, New
at that moment in 1989, with the nationally-ranked Catamounts in the process
of defeating UConn on their way to a record 19-win season and a berth
in the national quarterfinals, that Cormier made his college decision.
After seeing that spectacle on television with the fans lining the
trees, it became my dream to play for UVM, he recalls.
With that dream long since realized, Cormier is chasing a new one as head
coach of the team he played for from 1991 to 1994: to make magical seasons
like 1989 a common occurrence.
is home for me; these are my people, says Cormier, who is making
his UVM coaching debut this fall. Id like to bring back that
kind of success, that special feeling that a season like that creates.
I have the blueprint and the support of the administration to make it
happen. But the first thing we have to do is to bring back the belief.
The players have to have faith in themselves and each other.
Inspiration and faith notwithstanding, Cormier knows winning wont
come without quality athletes. He assembled two nationally ranked recruiting
classes as head recruiter at Oregon State and helped guide the Beavers
to a top 20 national ranking and first-ever NCAA tournament appearances
in 2002 and another in 2003.
I feel very confident that we can do the same thing here,
says Cormier, who credits former UVM coach Ron McEachen with much of his
success. Were bringing in some of the best kids in the nation.
Equally impressive, Cormier served as academic liaison for an OSU team
that posted an overall grade-point average of 3.11 and put five players
on the Pac-10 All-Academic Team.
the end of the day, Im just an employee whose job is to make sure
these student-athletes grow in every way possible. When I talk to parents,
I say, This is where they are now and this is where they will be
in four years. Everything is here for them to be successful.
Cormier, who played professionally in both Europe and the United States
after graduating from UVM, says he intends to measure success in terms
of effort rather than the final score, which he says will take care of
itself if the established level of effort is met.
Theres no team out there that scares me, says Cormier,
who frequently mentions his wife, Amy, son, Kai, and daughter, Parrish,
as sources of strength. On the same token we respect everyone we
play. I feel strongly that student-athletes will want to come here when
they see how supportive the community is and what we have to offer. This
is a very special place, and they will feel that just like I did as a