This old-school style adds up to lots of wins

Basketball: John Brady, who has coached Annapolis for 23 years, may rant and rave on the sideline, but his methods have been successful for the unbeaten Panthers

High Schools

February 25, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Some consider him the Bobby Knight of local high school basketball, but it's a comparison with which Annapolis coach John Brady doesn't agree.

"Don't compare me to Bobby Knight because while he does a lot of good things, he can be unfair and a fool once in awhile," says Brady, who admires the styles of Maryland's Gary Williams and Rick Majerus of Utah more. "But when it comes to being a tactician, Knight might be the best."

Despite Brady's disdain for the Knight comparison, there are similarities between the two. In this era of political correctness and sensitivity, the two have remained steadfast in their beliefs.

Like Knight, Brady is impressionable on the court with his style of stalking the sideline and bellowing at his players and officials, even after the game's outcome is obvious. While often misunderstood by fans and parents, it's a style his players understand.

The old-school way still works for Brady, and there is no denying his success on and off the court. He says it has always been his nature to get his players' attention and give directions by relentless hollering during the hectic pace of a game while taking on a calm demeanor in practice.

"John motivates kids, loves them and they love him," said former Annapolis star Henry Downs, who was captain and point guard on the Panthers' 1974 state championship team under the late Al Laramore.

Downs, who went on to play at Boston University and has been a county student advocate since 1997, called Brady before this season about helping out because he wanted "to give something back."

"John didn't hesitate and told me to come on over and made me an assistant," said Downs, who sees similarities with Brady and his predecessor, Laramore.

"Al was very intense, like John. I've learned a lot from John because he has a great knowledge of the game and is great at preparation."

The players know Brady as a caring coach whose philosophy is to "pick people who fit in and maximize potential by putting them in situations where they will succeed."

The current Annapolis team is the first county boys team to go undefeated in the regular season and is a potential 3A state champion, with Brady pushing the "play hard all the time" gospel.

"We respect Coach Brady and know how he is," said Thomas Hawkins, the only four-year starter in school history and the Panthers' all-time leading scorer.

"Nobody likes to have somebody yelling at you all the time, but Mr. Brady keeps on us to do the little things. And because our practice guys make us play so hard in practice, we play harder in the games."

Hawkins is an integral part of what is "a very special team" to Brady because of its chemistry and gifted, veteran trio of Hawkins, All-Metro swingman Marcus Johnson and All-County junior point guard Marcus Neal.

"Just when you think you're playing as good as you can, Mr. Brady finds something to make you play better," said Neal, who has started since the middle of his freshman year after Brady took him under his wing.

"I didn't start off on the right foot at Annapolis, was hanging around with a bad crowd and not doing what I was supposed to do in school. Mr. Brady straightened me out, and I'm a better person for it. He told me he loves me."

Turning Neal around is something Brady has done with several of his former players, 85 percent of whom have gone on to college, with 15 playing NCAA Division I basketball.

"Marcus wasn't a very serious student and not committed to playing basketball," said Brady, who says he always expected to succeed as a coach when he started as an assistant to the late Dick Hart at Andover in 1970.

"He was not using his academic ability, but [he] is now, and I'm proud of him and what he's done. He's a very important part of a special team."

A graduate of Mount St. Joseph High and the University of Maryland, the white-haired and robust Brady has become an Anne Arundel County legend, going 482-89 in 23 years at Annapolis.

His .844 winning percentage, which a faculty member told him is "only a middle B," is the highest among active metro-area coaches with 10 years or more of experience. His 482 wins are second to Southern's Tom Albright, who is 499-307 (.619) in 35 seasons in Harwood.

Brady has led the Panthers to 13 of their Maryland-record 24 appearances in the state tournament at College Park and won a state title in 1990.

Yet, not until this season have Brady's Panthers been ranked No. 1 by The Sun. No Anne Arundel County boys team has finished No. 1 in The Sun's final poll.

Annapolis, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press state poll behind Riverdale Baptist (30-3), showed up this week in the USA Today's national rankings at No. 10 in the East.

Brady just led the Panthers to Anne Arundel County's first perfect season (22-0) in boys basketball, their 17th county title in his 23 years as head coach and 19th 20-win season.

The 22-game winning streak is a county public school record and ties the overall record for Anne Arundel-based teams, set by Severn (25-2) in 1992-93.

Top-seeded Annapolis is focused on its opener in the 3A East regional Tuesday against the winner of tomorrow's Crossland-Bladensburg game in Prince George's County.

"All the records are great, but what we want is that state championship," said Johnson, who was last at Cole Field House with Neal, Hawkins, Joe Feldmann and Aaron Copeland in 1998.

"When you play against those guys who have been together forever, somebody always steps up for them," said North County coach Mike Francis after his No. 14 ranked Knights (16-6) lost, 80-74, to the Panthers in the county final Wednesday night.

Neal points to the team's "great chemistry and everybody knows what everybody can do.

"We've got a lot of guys on this team who could start at other schools, but get along here and know how important their roles are."

It's a team that knows how to win and has fun doing it, but won't be pleased unless it wins it all.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.