As a young player, Danny Brown idolized LSU star Pete Maravich. As a coach, he has studied John Wooden. Now he shares a link with both – Brown is a Hall of Famer.
Brown, the former Jennings County star and current Columbus East girls coach, will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with the 12-man Class of 2015 on March 25. He joins Madison’s Buster Briley, Springs Valley’s Marvin Pruett and Bloomington’s Dan Sparks in the 54th class to earn membership among the state greats enshrined at New Castle.
Brown, who played for the University of Louisville, scored 1,960 career points with the Panthers and was selected to the 1973 Indiana All-Star team. As a junior, he averaged 27.5 points per game on a team that included 2014 inductee Willie Harmon and set the state record for scoring average (92.9). At Louisville, he was a member of three NCAA Tournament teams, including the 1975 Final Four squad.
“Two kids from a small town in Southern Indiana, good enough to be in the Hall of Fame together, is pretty special,” Brown said. “It’s a humbling experience, that’s for sure. It makes me proud, more than anything, proud of the fact as a young kid I used to practice eight hours a day. I just worked at the game when a lot of kids were doing other things. Hard work eventually pays off.”
Brown learned from the best and now stands with them. Wooden, the Martinsville, Purdue and UCLA legend, was among those who influenced his career. He’s in his 16th season as a girls coach with 236 wins at Jennings County, Greensburg and Columbus East, where he’s now in his 12th season.
“Having played at Louisville for Coach (Denny) Crum, in the UCLA system, I really studied up on Wooden,” Brown said. “I played in the game in 1975 (when Louisville met UCLA in the Final Four) in his next-to-last game. I watched Oscar Robertson growing up, I was a big fan of Rick Mount. When we played at Purdue, I went right to that corner where Mount used to shoot. Of course, Damon (Bailey) was a fellow coach in the Hoosier Hills Conference and I got to know him.
“I have to give a big thanks to Coach Crum, Coach (Bill) Olsen and Jerry Jones. Those are special people in my life.”
Brown has won four sectional titles at East and took the Olympians to the state final in 2007. He has discovered a difference between playing and coaching.
“Yeah, as a coach you don’t have as much control,” he said. “When I played in high school, I had the ball in my hands a lot. I guess if I could have taught myself a little better defense, I probably would have.”
Among the others destined for the Hall in 2015:
– Briley set the Madison record with 1,985 career points. He graduated in 1960 and later played on the 1964 NCAA College Division national champions at Evansville College. He scored 1,335 career points for the Purple Aces.
– Pruett led Springs Valley to the 1958 state finals in the school’s first year of existence. He scored 1,625 career points at West Baden and the consolidated Springs Valley, averaging 25.1 points as a senior and earning a spot on the 1959 Indiana All-Star squad. He scored 1,122 career points at Evansville College.
– Sparks played college basketball at Weber State and later played in the ABA for the Miami Floridians. He made his mark as a coach at Vincennes University, where he won 706 games in 26 seasons. He took the Trailblazers to the NJCAA Finals 13 times and finished as national runner-up in 1986.