Brown Has Solid Foundation; New Faces As He Begins At WVU
It’s appropriate that our first attempt at contacting new WVU basketball strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown ended in failure – because the three decade-veteran was in the midst of his own workout.
The new man on the front line of preparing the Mountaineers for the future of West Virginia has dozens of tasks to complete as he closes up his house in Minnesota and prepares to make the move to Morgantown, but he’s still making time for his own routine. What could be a better lesson for those he will soon be pushing to maintain their own conditioning schedules?
“I’m ready to get in and get going,” Brown said as he looked forward to getting to know the Mountaineers he will be working with. “I’ll gather some information, but mostly I want to formulate my own opinions and get to know them. Strength coaches are around the players year round – it’s usually a couple of hours a day, and just the sheer volume of that and the time involved lets you get to know them pretty quickly.”
With stops including Minnesota, USC, Virginia, Providence, Rutgers and Kentucky on the college level, as well as Boston and Toronto in the NBA. Brown has assimilated a number of different approaches and techniques that he employs in his job. He acknowledges that different players can require different approaches, but also points out the system being employed plays a part.
“It’s an ever-evolving profession,” Brown described. “There have been a lot of changes over the years, and you add in new items as you go. The style of play and the players also dictate some into how you approach it.
“For example, at USC, [coach] Kevin O’Neill liked bigger guys that would bang you around and just wear you out. Rick Pitino played up-tempo, so conditioning and endurance were the keys. He had leaner guys. That will be similar to what Coach Huggins needs here at West Virginia.”
Brown is stepping into a program that is stable in some respects, but in flux in others. The strength program has been well-built and executed by former coach Andy Kettler, who moved on to Louisville, and Brown is effusive in his praise of the work he has done.
“I’ve known Andy since he was at Winthrop,” Brown said, recounting several years of a professional and friendly relationship. “He’s done a great job here. He knows how to train people, so it’s not like I’m starting over or having to build from scratch. Plus, the facilities here are as advanced as you want, and state-of-the art. Some places I have gone I’ve had to build up the equipment, but that’s not the case here.”
The downside is a roster that has flipped quicker than houses on a home improvement show. WVU has seen five players – two graduates and three transfers – depart over the past month.
“I wish they were all coming back,” Brown said, at least partly discounting a suggestion that a flock of newcomers will make him feel less like the new guy on the block. “I really loved watching that team play last year. But maybe I can share some of that newness [with the first-time players] and we can earn that mutual respect. That’s important – it has to work both ways – and I like to think that evolves as time goes on too.”
Clearly, building those relationships is important in Brown’s approach. It comes up in response to several different questions, and even extends to recruiting.
“I tell the recruits they better get to know the strength and conditioning guy,” Brown said. “You’re going to be spending more time with that guy than just about anyone else, and it’s important to understand him.”
While strength and conditioning coaches are typically behind the scenes, Brown’s importance to the 2018-19 team might be a bit higher than normal. Taking over from an established coach is one thing, but getting to know veteran returnees while integrating a half-dozen new players (five scholarship and one walk-on) adds to the workload. His ability to do all that will play a big part in the success of next year’s team, but it probably won’t be difficult to find him while doing so. Just check in the weight room.