Loyola's Brune still gets the `little things right'

Dons coach aims for win No. 200 today

High School


November 25, 1999|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Since Joe Brune arrived at Loyola High School in 1967, his football teams have won six titles.

But Brune recently admitted that this, his 33rd season coaching the Dons, "has been a struggle."

At times, the 65-year-old college adviser at the Towson-area private school said he has been unable to put a finger on why the Dons (5-5) have had to battle back to .500 despite returning plenty of talent.

"I believe in routine, repetition, getting kids to focus on getting the little things right," said Brune, who has been chosen All-Metro Coach of the Year three times. "I'm a stickler for doing things that are fundamentally sound, but it's tougher to reach kids nowadays."

Brune is in position to collect another milestone: career victory No. 200, against 129 losses and one tie. He can accomplish that feat today at 10 a.m. at PSINet Stadium against Calvert Hall in the teams' 80th annual Thanksgiving Day clash.

Calvert Hall (4-5) has won three straight games but has lost 10 straight Turkey Bowls to the Dons, who lead the series, 41-30-8.

Brune calls a 35-0 loss to Mount St. Joseph "the low point" of the season.

"We left ourselves open to a big play, and after that, we lost all confidence and showed no enthusiasm," Brune said. "The kids had a hard time returning to practice the next week. [Assistant coach] Mike Creaney talked to them. Things picked up, and we had a big win over Georgetown Prep in our last game."

But what happens when the game's over and the season ends?

"You get to the end of the year [and] start looking at what's coming back, how you can build a team," Brune said. "You decide whether the coaching, physically and emotionally, is too exhausting. How long you keep doing it depends on how your stamina holds up."

Brune watched his longtime friend and rival, Augie Waibel of Poly, retire two years ago with 280 wins and 75 losses. Waibel, now an assistant at Towson University, cited a need to spend more time with his wife and grandchildren. As a senior tackle at Loyola, Brune played against Waibel, a center at Southern High.

Whatever his future holds, Brune, no doubt, won't make the decision before seeking counsel from his wife of 38 years, Sheila Brune, whom he said "keeps me on my toes" and "doesn't want me to stop coaching."

"She's been real positive when I get discouraged. She's had to do that a lot this year," said Brune. "Sometimes, she gets right on me when I put too much pressure on myself. She'll find something positive, like `so and so' had a good game. Other times, she'll wait until I calm down."

Not that other family members haven't been around to share time with Brune, a grandfather of four -- the oldest of whom is 8 -- with two on the way.

Daughters Meaghan, 37; Gillian Ford, 34; Caitlin, 30; Moira Thomas, 28; and Kieran, 23, all have been statisticians. Son Sean, 31, was on Brune's title-winning team of 1986 and still films games as an assistant to Brune. Son Colin, 26, was on the runner-up Dons of '91.

A part-time secretary at Loyola, Sheila said her husband, a 1952 graduate of the school where he coaches, "certainly has it in him, physically, to go two more years."

Brune landed his first teaching job in 1959 at City College, where he also coached lacrosse and wass an assistant football coach to George Young.

At City, Brune coached Mayor Kurt Schmoke (quarterback), Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (center), Wilde Lake assistant Richard Jackson (tight end) and City coach and athletic director George Petrides (linebacker).

Petrides, now 50, still calls his former coach "Mr. Brune" out of respect. Petrides recalled not long ago how Brune's temper tantrums often involved throwing his hat down, kicking the dirt or simply hollering a lot.

"If you didn't get it right, you did it again and again until you got it right," Petrides said. "And he'd have nothing to do with you if you weren't a hard-nosed kid."

Loyola president Father Jack Dennis, S.J., a swimmer for the Dons until graduating in 1971, recalls being "intimidated by this big, no-nonsense coach who has a big heart under that gruff exterior but who cuts right to the core of the matter."

"Joe Brune's from the days where, if you had a difference in opinion with the coach or a question as to why you weren't playing, you simply had to suck it up," Dennis said. "Over the past two years, he's become more flexible."

Some of Brune's colleagues at Loyola have been replaced as part of the administration's new direction.

"If a person comes in, has a new vision, [and] things need to be changed or improved, I don't disagree with that," Brune said. "But when you see that happen, you have to be concerned. I talked to [Dennis] recently, and I've been told they're satisfied with the way the program's being run."

Brune's lessons, said 21-year-old Arthur Price, a junior lacrosse player at Georgetown University, "go beyond football" and deal more with "hard work, discipline and doing things the right way."

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