for CBI CAA preview
click here for coaches'
CAA preseason poll
click here for coaches' preseason
The Jimmy Buffett of College
By Phil Stanton
do you become a Division I head coach at the age of 24? It might
be impossible today, but it happened to Billy Brown in the fall
After playing for two seasons at George Mason in
1978 and 1979, he became an assistant for two years for the
Patriots under former big league pitcher Walt Masterson.
“I’ll never forget the day,” Brown said. “We’re
sitting there talking and Walt stood up and said ‘I’m going
home.’ And I said ‘OK, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ And he said ‘No,
I’m not coming back.’ If you knew Walt, you knew that was it. He
was done. He got in his green truck and went back down to
Culpeper and never came back.
“In reality, I was probably one of the least
qualified guys around but even the best high school coaches
wouldn’t have taken it. The job didn’t have any benefits. We had
two scholarships. The job was only for somebody who was willing
to literally be a part-time guy. You had to be a young kid.”
That young kid has not left. Brown enters his
31st season as the head coach at George Mason. He joins
Stanford’s Mark Marquess (35), Wichita State’s Gene Stephenson
(34), Florida State’s Mike Martin (32), Stetson’s Pete Dunn (32)
and Minnesota’s John Anderson (30) as coaches who have spent
their entire career at one Division I school for at 30 years.
(Tony Rossi has spent 41 years as the head coach at Siena, part
of that time in Division II.)
has piled up 844 victories and his teams have advanced to six
NCAA Regionals, going twice in each decade (’85, ’88, ’92, ’93,
He has been in the Colonial Athletic Association
for its entire existence. Actually, his first NCAA appearance in
1985 was the year prior to the formation of the CAA. That
season, the Patriots won the ECAC South Tournament in
“That tournament was wild,” Brown said. “I’ll
never forget the opening game of the tournament. We’re playing
ECU in the evening. One minute the lights blow out and we’re
sitting there, sitting there. We play another few innings and a
thunderstorm comes through and the game ends up being suspended.
“The guy we had pitching for us, and you would
never think of doing things like this today, was a guy named Dan
Atcheson. We come back in the morning and we’re going to resume
the game. He looks at me and says ‘I’m good. I got it.’ And he
finishes the game the next day and wins its. Unbelievable. We
ended up having three complete games, never went to the bullpen,
and won the tournament.”
Brown is a native of Northern Virginia and
attended George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church. He was
influenced by baseball coach Jimmy Miller and by football coach
Ed Henry, a name made famous by the movie Remember the Titans.
Brown played at the University of Georgia for one year before
transferring to Allegany Community College in Cumberland, Md. He
played there for Steve Bazarnic, who is still the head coach to
“I really fell back in love with baseball again
playing for Steve,” Brown said, “and propelled me to get into
coaching and finish at Mason.”
Nick Giaquinto, in his 24th season as head coach
at Sacred Heart, worked with Brown during the 1987 and 1988
seasons. He played four seasons in the NFL before turning to
“I knew I was going to be a coach,” Giaquinto
said, “and I always thought I’d be a football coach. Somewhere
around the end of my career I decided that I wanted to shift
gears totally. I had my degree in education so I went to George
Mason for my master’s. That’s when I approached Billy and asked
him if he could use some help and he graciously accepted. It was
a great learning experience. He does a heck of a job with that
was very organized. When I became the head coach the year after
I left him, I used a lot of his practice plans as far as
organization. He was very professional the way he communicated
with the players. The guys liked him a lot. It was a good
experience all around.”
Shawn Stiffler, pitching coach at VCU, was both a
player (1998-2001) and assistant coach (2002-06) at Mason under
“He’s certainly a player’s coach,” Stiffler said.
“He makes you feel pretty comfortable and at ease. At the same
time, you always know that he’s in charge. As a player, he
allows for your personal growth both on the field and off.
“This is one of the reasons I went to George
Mason: he talks to you like a man, regardless if you just got
done winning a good game on Friday night or you got in trouble.
You sit down in his office and he talks to you like a man and
holds you accountable like a man. You always know where you
Stiffler saw that Brown
could make the players relax and slow down the game.
“He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen at making the
game simple,” Stiffler said. “He really had an ability to break
the game down to thirds, innings, outs and pitches.”
According to Stiffler, Brown was not only a
player’s coach, but also a coach’s coach.
“I joined his staff when I was 22 years old,”
Stiffler said. “He made me feel like I had a say. In terms of
pitching, I was going to be in charge of it. If I needed help I
would go to him. He let you go out and he let you work. The
great thing about him, he would allow me to make mistakes but he
would take responsibility for those mistakes. When you leave
there coaching for Bill Brown, three or four years, you can
leave there and you have a pretty good identity as a coach.”
After 30 years, what differences does Brown see
in college baseball?
“One of the things that I see is how dedicated
the kids are now,” Brown said. “They go at it constantly, year
round. In the past, that wasn’t always the case. It was more of
an old-school thinking, you took the winter off, didn’t do much.
That’s not reality with these guys anymore.
“The other thing that’s changed is terms of
playing is that back in the 80’s, we were playing 35 games in
the fall and another 60-plus in the springtime so we were
playing all the time. That’s all we did, we just played. But all
we did was coach. There weren’t all the things we have to do now
administratively. It was easy. I worked on the field and
coached. That’s what I did.”
The Patriots struggled to a 21-32-1 mark in 2011,
but Brown is upbeat about this season. Mason has rarely had
back-to-back losing seasons under Brown.
“We’re excited about where we are,” Brown said.
“Last year was not a good year for us. It was a tough year, but
we’re excited about where we are and the kids in our program.
We’re very optimistic.”
The laid-back Brown keeps it going, even after 30
“He is truthfully one of the funniest men I’ve
ever met,” Stiffler said. “If there is a Jimmy Buffett of
college baseball, it’s Billy Brown.”
(photos courtesy of George Mason
Media Relations Office)