Intensity, Relatability In Equal Measure For Neal Brown
Coaches at the Division I level tend to fit into one of several molds. There are the no-nonsense guys, the screamers, the homespun folksy types. Any can be successful, given the right set of circumstances and their overall skills.
In Neal Brown, West Virginia is getting a coach who has a little bit of everything in the mix. First and foremost, though, is the way in which he relates to the media.
“With us, he has always been very relaxed,” said A. Stacy Long, who has covered Brown and the Troy University beat for the Montgomery Advertiser. “He’s very down to earth, and his family is that way, too. He has always been good with us.”
Long related a story to illustrate the point.
“When he was at Troy for his first stint as an offensive coordinator, his practices were always open. They still are. I was going down to video some general shots for a story. Neal is halfway between me and offense and with his back to me. The first play they run is a reverse. The quarterback saw me and yelled out, ‘Hey, Stacy is taping our reverses.’ All Neal does is kind of look over and motion me not to tape those. I was already deleting it when it happened, but that shows how he was with us.”
Most other coaches would have flipped out, or not let anyone on the field at all. (There’s no word yet on what Brown’s policies will be at WVU.) However, his calm reaction reflected the way in which he relates to the media and the public.
“He’s very personable, and always good with fans,” Long said. “There are a number of summer events and camps that he attends, and he makes good connections with everyone there.”
Long related another story that demonstrates Brown’s fun with the game.
“A couple of years ago (Michigan head coach) Jim Harbaugh was down here for one of his satellite camps, and that’s the one where he took his shirt off. I saw Neal coming in to an event a couple of days later, when he had just arrived from one of his own camps, and asked him if he took his shirt off like Harbaugh did. Neal said, ‘Yes, but I look better than he does.'”
The 38-year-old Brown also acquiesced to several requests from the media, including one from Long to spend a day with him to gain insight into the day of a coach.
“That day started at 5:30 a.m. and ended about 1:00 a.m.,” Long said. “Neal did a few things that day that aren’t included in every day for a head coach, like class checks, but he thought it was a great idea to have the story done.”
Brown’s family, like him, appears to be very down to earth. There’s no apparent entitlement, and the activities of the children are just as important as Brown’s job.
“On the weekend that Troy beat LSU, one of his daughters had a gymnastics meet. So, none of the family was at the game,” Long related. “Afterward, they went to Applebee’s to watch the game, and his wife (Brooke) asked them to turn on the game. ‘My husband is the coach,’ she said. So, they watched one of his biggest wins at Applebee’s.”
All of that contrasts with Brown’s much more fiery manner on the field. He gets “wired up,” there according to Long.
“He’s very hands-on,” Long said of his approach. “In practice, he’s with the quarterbacks one minute, with the wide receivers the next. He was still calling his own plays, so he was a little more involved in the offense, but he isn’t laid-back there.”
Even when that intensity crossed the line, Brown still managed to demonstrate his leadership ability, and his relationship with his players. After drawing a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in his team’s win over Nebraska this season, Brown imposed the same penalty on himself as he does to players who commit the same infraction:
— Troy Trojans Football 🔟x⚔️ (@TroyTrojansFB) September 18, 2018
In all, it appears as if WVU is getting a coach that knows how to relate, both to his players and to the public.