After winning the Class 4A state title last year and returning just one starter from that team, the Annapolis boys basketball team was ripe for a post-championship depression.
Senior forward Rob Wooster said only one thing kept the Annapolis team from folding under the pressure of the program's high expectations -- its coach, John Brady.
"I think if it wasn't for Coach Brady pushing us from day one, the Annapolis Panthers wouldn't have been in the states again," said Wooster.
"He just had such a positive attitude about himself and theteam that it just rubbed off on us. He wanted it, and it made us strive to want it more."
Said Brady, who won his 13th county and 11thregional this season, "Only two things come before Annapolis basketball -- familyand school work. I considered it a challenge to get backto College Park. I told (the players) that the second toughest thingto do is win a state championship. The tough
est thing to do is to repeat."
Yet for Brady, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, the 1990-1991 boys basketball season was oneof setting high goals, falling short of some and savoring the littlevictories along the way.
The season ended with a 62-60 state semifinal loss to eventual state champion Parkdale, which prevented Bradyfrom grabbing his 300th career victory and kept his Panthers from reaching the state final for a fifth time.
Sure, he would have likedto have won his second consecutive Class 4A state title, but considering the perennially tough schedule his Panthers play -- including Baltimore's highly touted Dunbar, Southern and Poly high schools -- andthe relative inexperience compared to last year's team, just reaching this year's state semifinals was an accomplishment.
"Things havea tendency to fall apart after a championship because of pressure from fans and complacency. But this team came back determined and camewithin three points of going back (to the state final)," said Brady,who has a 298-48 record in 14 seasons and whose teams never have missed a regional final.
"We only had one starter coming back and hisposition was changed. The others were back-ups or guys who didn't play at all," added Brady, who is the Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his career.
"We weren't even being considered the best teamafter losing to Old Mill. But we'd lose and we'd regroup. We lost toPoly then we beat Southern in overtime. This team just showed a determination to have a great season."
Brady took pride in the development of his smallest starter, 5-foot-10 senior guard Gerard Hyman, who averaged 7.1 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds as he stepped in for former All-County guard Gene Slocum.
"Slocum had been running the offense for two years and got us to the state finals last year. Hyman was under a lot of pressure from the community to fill in for him," said Brady. "People were pressing him right away for turnovers, but I've never had a player work as hard as he had for the minutes he played. I rarely give out individual compliments, so this is special."
Brady, who stands 6-foot-5, grew up in Brooklyn Park and was a former center for Baltimore's Mount St. Joseph High. He graduated fromthe University of Maryland in 1970 but did not play college ball.
Today, life is placing new demands on the 43-year-old coach, who is considering retirement from coaching. A marketing teacher at Annapolis, Brady has been married for four years and has a 2 1/2-year-old daughter.
From time to time, he reflects on the fact that 77 percent of the seniors from his teams have gone on to college, including four of his former starters who graduated from the Naval Academy.
Oneof them, 1987 Annapolis graduate Tim Brown, dropped by recently to see his old coach. Brown is completing his fourth year at the University of California (Pa.), where he is a B student who started all four seasons for the California squad.
"We talked, but I'm not a very sentimental guy or the kind of guy who sits around and exchanges compliments," said Brady. "The fact that players come back and talk to me shows their appreciation. They know how I feel about them, and they've said some good things about me -- that's good enough."