John Brady says it's no big deal, but his players and others say otherwise, and for once in his brilliant 14-year-run as head coach of the Annapolis Panthers, the silver-haired mentor is wrong.
Piling up300 wins just two games into your 15th season is an incredible feat,something no coach in Anne Arundel County history has ever done.
Brady can notch coveted No. 300 at 7:30 tonight on his home courton Riva Road in the Cap City with a victory over his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore. The stage was set for tonight when Brady's Panthers took a somewhat lackluster 90-82 win over Carver Tech of Baltimore on Friday night.
That ran Brady's phenomenal career record to 299-50. Tonight, barring an upset by the visiting Gaels, he joins a small group of boys basketball coaches who can rightfully be called the greatest in state history.
Yet, the remarkable accomplishment of averaging nearly 22 wins and fewer than four losses a season doesn't impress the 44-year-old coach. To him, tonight will be just another game.
"Yeah, if I get through it alive, it will be special," laughed a discouraged Brady after the Carver victory. The coach said he felt that the team had made too many bad decisions in the second half in blowing a 23-point lead and allowing the Bears to get back into the game.
"We played ragtag: We could've really taken them out of here, but we didn't. We were embarrassing, we really were. There was no coaching involved, just things we've gone over and over. I'm notasking them to invent the wheel during the game."
The dejected coach cited the point guard's shooting the ball and nobody being back, with everybody on the break at the end instead of getting down and getting rebounds. He also cited unnecessary fouls and letting opponentswhiz by on the dribble.
"After awhile, you get tired of hearing yourself talk."
Trying to get the coach to talk about No. 300 was painful because he kept replaying the game that had just ended.
When asked again if getting No. 300 tonight would be special, the coach answered, "Nope, not really. It's just another game we have to try towin and play better than we did tonight."
Not even the fact that he would attain 300 wins in the shortest amount of time of any coach in county history and become the county's fourth to reach the pinnacle impresses him.
"Well, what it means is that I've got 700 to makeAdolph Rupp (the Kentucky coach who had 875 career wins) eat my dust," Brady said, joking.
"Hey, listen, you don't win that many gamesunless you have good players, so I can't take all the credit. But let's face it, I was here to open the locker room every day, well at least most every day."
While the coach downplays the accomplishment,his players consider it something special.
"Obviously, it means something in that he is the first to get 300 the quickest, and we wantto do it for him, but that's not why he's here to coach," said returning 6-foot-5 senior Rob Wooster, the Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year last season who led the Panthers on Friday with 22 points.
"He's not here to coach for his 300th win. He's here to coach because he likes the group of guys we've got and he thinks that we workwell together as a team and that's what he likes about this group ofguys."
Despite his opening night dismay, that is precisely why Brady is back with this year's team and why he didn't retire at the endof last season with 298 wins and one state championship (1990). He can be out of his mind over the mechanics of his players, but he neverloses sight of his reason for coaching -- he loves to help young players grow on and off the court.
"Because of the way we played tonight, I'm not changing my opinion of this group. I like them, and they're still a good group," Brady said.
Wooster says he and the players know what they have ahead of them despite winning.
"We're glad that we won, but there are a lot of things we have to work on as a team," he said. "We want him (Brady) to always be happy with the way weperform, but when we don't perform up to our ability, then obviouslythere's going to be some disgust in him as well as us."
Lozonnah James, a 6-2 junior who chipped in 17 points Friday night, said, "We played great in all our scrimmages before this game and I guess that's why Coach Brady is upset.
"We started off pretty good but then had mental breakdowns."
James said the players have to put the opener behind them and "come back and be stronger next time with no more mental breakdowns."
As for winning tonight over St. Joe, James said it all for Brady and the rest of the team: "It means a lot to have a coach that wins 300 games. It's a big accomplishment, you know, butwe want to try and win as many games as we can and not just end at 300.
"We want to continue the Annapolis tradition."
And what a tradition it has been, from the late "Big Al" Laramore to John Brady -- the best in Anne Arundel County history.