By Dana Becker
Mike Brown knows he is in for the biggest challenge of his coaching career.
But the former Iowa Central head women's basketball coach believes all of his stops - including his time with the Tritons - have helped to prepare him for this step.
Brown was recently named an assistant coach for new Northwestern State women's basketball head coach Anna Nimz. He is joined on the staff by Leasa Ailshie and Mike Pittman.
"Joining the staff at Northwestern State is an exciting opportunity for me," Brown said. "It'll be great to work with Coach Anna Nimz again. She's a young, energetic, up and coming coach. I was so happy, personally, to hear she got the head coaching job and then to be asked to join her was an absolute blessing. I couldn't have found a better opportunity to work with such an amazing staff."
Brown previously worked with Nimz at Kilgore Community College. He has over two decades of coaching experience under his belt now, including his time at Iowa Central.
"I'm excited to work at the highest level (NCAA D1)," Brown said. "In my career I've spent time at almost every level. (NJCAA D1 and D2, NCAA D2, and now D1). As a coach, you always want to challenge yourself and working at the highest level is a challenge. The ability to recruit high character and high caliber athletes for Coach Nimz and the Northwestern State University athletic program is something I'm really looking forward too."
In his first season as head coach of the Tritons in 2000, Brown was named the Region XI Tournament Championship and Coach of the Year.
"My time at Iowa Central really helped me develop as a coach both personally and professionally, no doubt about it," he said. "Working at Iowa Central, you learned quickly that coaching was a small part of your responsibilities. Coaching there helped me learn how to lean on the people around you to make you better. As they say in our sport, it's a team game.
"Working with the great people at Iowa Central every day further made me understand that and be able to implement that within our program at the time. When I left Iowa Central, I really felt that I had a better hold on the coaching world. I learned a great deal about the business side of college basketball and that was critical in my development as a well-rounded coach."
Brown also was the head coach at both Upper Iowa University and William Penn. He also coached Upper Iowa's first Division II Freshman of the Year and All-Region players, led the Peacocks to their first national ranking and tutored a three-time All-American for William Penn.
During his career, Brown has had many influences, with each one really helping to shape him into the person he is today.
"My high school coaches were a very big influence in the early stages of my career. I had basically three different coaches in my time at North Polk High School," he said. "Larry Stracke, Bob Sandquist (Rick's brother) and Jack Christensen - and his assistant Justin Carlson, who coached the Johnston High School girls at one time - really helped stoke the fires for the love of the game.
"Coach Bluder, Jensen, and Fitzgerald (at the time at Drake and now Iowa) were a huge, positive influence on me. All of them allowed a young college student to get behind the coaching door and get an early glimpse at what coaching college basketball was all about. I can't think of a more professional group of women to be around in my life. They are truly some of the classiest people I've ever been around in and out of the business. Coach Bluder, Coach J, Coach Fitz were hugely responsible for me getting into women's college basketball."
That all carried right over to Iowa Central with key figures helping him along the way.
"Tom Beneke, who I say to this day is one of the most underrated coaches I've been around. It wasn't X's and O's with Coach Beneke. Being around him at such a young age, I learned from a guy who understood it's all about relationships with players," Brown said. "Coach was able to push kids extremely hard one second, and then step off the floor and he'd be just a regular guy/mentor with them. A big part of my coaching style always tips back to Coach Beneke; I just really loved going to work with him because it was never work. I've never forgotten who gave me my first shot at such a young age.
"Coach (Dennis) Pilcher was also a huge influence in my early career. Pilch was and is the greatest coach around. I would sit back and just be a kid in a candy store watching him up close every day. I think I got my master's degree in coaching while I was watching him guide his teams every year at Iowa Central. He was just so professional in everything he did. His teams were so fundamentally sound. I have a lot of respect for Coach Pilcher. He really had great behind the scenes critiques or suggestions that were hugely important for my development as a coach. Coach also showed me how to be a better man - which is what it's all about anyway.
"The entire coaching staff at Iowa Central, head coaches and assistants working there when I was there all added to my coaching repertoire. Mainly, how they dealt with their teams and such. I learned a lot from watching other colleagues go at it.
"Lastly, Coach Ben Conrad (head coach at Johnson Community College) was also great for me both personally and professionally. Besides growing up together and all the things that does for you, he really helped me be a better coach. To focus more on the finer details of the game. Especially, on the defensive end of the floor. He also showed me how to work smarter/better at the game of recruiting."