There were embraces.There were kisses. There were handshakes.
John Brown received plenty of each.
The Neptune High School girls basketball coach reached the 300 career wins milestone when the host Scarlet Fliers bested Wall Township 57-36.
Brown and his legend were recently honored with a celebration.
“It has been a pleasure to coach here,” the 14th-year mentor said after the ceremony. “It has been an amazing journey. I hope it continues for some time. We bring the girls together as one–being a team, shaping the girls from the beginning and seeing what the final product is. I never thought I would get to this point. I take it year by year. I never know how long I am going to be here. … 13 and a half years later.”
Brown’s career–each win is at Neptune–is chock full of championships.
There is one NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title. There are four Central Jersey Group III crowns. There are two Group II state championships. There are three Shore Conference Tournament titles. There are seven outright Class B North crowns. There are three Class B North co-championships. There are six Christmas tournament titles.
Neptune was ranked eighth in the nation by USA Today in 2010 when it won the TOC. It was rated first in the Tri-State area. And during one white-hot stretch, the Scarlet Fliers won 70 straight games against Shore Conference opponents.
“We’re successful because we have a bunch of good girls who believe in the program and in working hard,” Brown said.
“The goal when I came here was for the program to be mentioned with the Neptune boys team. We wanted to go national.”
Ray Kelly, the Scarlet Fliers’ public address announcer and scorekeeper, led the celebration as he keyed the applause. Brown stepped to midcourt and acknowledged the celebration as he waved to the fans. Brown received balloons and a plaque from the team. He posed for numerous pictures with admirers. He said about 30 of his former players attended the game.
“We look forward to the next 300,” Kelly said. “Congratulations on the first 300 wins.”
One plaque said, “Congratulations John Brown for your 300 wins with Neptune varsity girls basketball. Thank you for protecting our house!”
Neptune assistant coach Kerri Quinn displayed a sign that said, “Coach Brown has 300 wins!”
“It feels good to get 300 wins,” Brown said. “I did not do it all alone. Kerri has been with me since Win One. The parents and the players believe in the program and we receive great support from the administration.”
Quinn said the program has produced 19 collegiate players. One standout, Shakena Richardson, played for Rutgers University, Florida State University and Seton Hall University, saw time in the WNBA and competed overseas. She is an assistant women’s basketball coach at Randolph College in Virginia.
“The most rewarding aspect of coaching is sending our players to school,” Brown said.
The former Lakewood athlete said he adjusts his coaching to the team’s talent level each season.
“You always change based on the talent,” said Brown, 51, who manages the Neptune office of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “We still like to play pressure defense. It will always be a part of our program.”
Quinn has been an assistant coach with the program for 20 seasons.
“John is committed to winning,” she said. “He prepares the team for each and every game no matter the competition. He studies the other team’s plays and players, then he prepares our girls. John is no-nonsense. He uses every minute he has. He works hard and expects the players to as well. He has adjusted over the years to match what his players need.”
One of the first to embrace the legendary mentor was former Neptune standout Dez Allen, who scored more than 1,000 varsity career points under Brown’s tutelage. They hugged prior to the game.
“This is a mile marker for coach Brown,” said Allen, a junior at the New Jersey Institute of Technology where she played basketball as a freshman and sophomore. “He does not give up on his players. Even if we are doing bad, he has faith in us and pushes us through. He always pushes us to go harder. He’s been doing that all through his years of coaching. He deserves this 300th win as he puts in a lot of time and effort.
“Coach Brown is a passionate coach. Sometimes, he will yell. If he is not yelling, it’s when you worry as you are not playing to your ability.”
Allen said there were times when her relationship with Brown was not the best. during her four varsity seasons.
“Of course,” she said, “we had our ups and downs, but I would not want to be coached in high school by any other coach. He listens to what you say to him. He fixed my attitude. He made me a better person. Sometimes, you have to grow up. Before I had him, I had a real bad attitude and talked back to the refs. I had an I don’t care attitude.”
Neptune sophomore guard Amaya Evans, who scored 17 points against the Crimson Knights, said she, senior forward Macy Brackett and sophomore guard Ahjanae Young enjoy playing for Brown.
“He is a real good coach,” Evans said. “He is real tough on Ahjanae, Macy and myself. He expects a lot from us. When we start off slow, he is on us and tells us what we are doing wrong. I enjoy playing for him. I like his coaching style. My teammates all have a good bond and we’re real close with each other.”
Neptune senior forward Sophia Yevchak, who will play for Merrimack College, said Brown’s teachings go beyond basketball.
“He teaches us life’s lessons,” she said after scoring eight points and adding two blocks and one assist. “He starts practice with a quote each day. The quote is about working with your teammates, having confidence and putting out effort. Some of the quotes also deal with playing defense and equality–we are all together as one unit.
“Coach Brown sticks to his plan. He has been doing the same thing since I got here as a freshman on the varsity. He knows what he wants and is a good teacher to all of us.”
Yevhcak said Brown is an understanding coach.
“If someone does not understand something, he will go through it with that player,” she said. “He is a supportive coach who will help you if you are doing something wrong. He will teach you what to do.”
Brown was inducted into the Ramapo College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 after starring on the Roadrunners’ men’s basketball team. Brown, who graduated in 1991, was a four-year starter and a three-year co-captain. He was named to the 1991 Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Final Four team. He was honored as the ECAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1991.
Brown began this season second on the Roadrunners’ career scoring list with 1,775 points. He scored a school single-season record 701 points in 1990-91 when he handed out 143 assists. He starred for Ramapo from 1987-91. He graduated as its career scoring leader. He set several Ramapo records.
The 1991 team was inducted into Ramapo’s Hall of Fame in 2007. A team member was ex-Lakewood scoring machine Tim Brown, who was 11th on Ramapo’s career scoring list with 1,202 points. He played for the Roadrunners from 1989-92.
John Brown set several Ramapo records, including most points in a game and most points in a career. He was invited to try out for the New Jersey Nets, now the Brooklyn Nets.
He coached boys basketball at Henry Hudson Regional and the now defunct Admiral Farragut Academy of Pine Beach. He guided Admiral Farragut to the state Prep A title in 1994. Brown earned his Masters Degree in Administrative Sciences from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
John Brown’s wife, Ivelisse; mother, Millicent; children, Shantel and Antoine, and nephew, Ziyaire, attended the event. Shantel Brown, now a government representative for the New Jersey Department of Education, played basketball for St. John Vianney, Seton Hall University and Wilmington University (De.).
The Scarlet Fliers saw to it that they would get their beloved coach his 300th win on their first try, leading the game from start to finish as they scored the first eight points of the opening quarter.
Evans and Yevchak netted eight points each as the winners, relying on a pressure defense that forced lots of turnovers and transition baskets, sped to a 24-18 halftime lead. Wall drew within 26-20 with 7:04 left in the third quarter. Brackett erupted for six points, sending Neptune in front 32-20 with 4:42 to go in the third quarter.
Neptune opened the fourth quarter with a 12-0 avalanche, taking a 51-29 lead with 2:57 remaining on an Evans layup. Evans keyed the spree with six points. The Scarlet Fliers’ lead mushroomed to as many as 22 points three times in the fourth quarter.
Brackett added 12 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Evans contributed six rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block. Junior guard Alena Totten added five rebounds, five steals and two points.
The victory pushed Brown’s record to 300-66.
“We knew this game could result in the 300th win,” John Brown said. “We prepared for it like it was a normal game. We wanted to get it done on the first try as we knew we would have a tough game Saturday against Marlboro (on Jan. 11).”
WALL (36): Nonnenberg 2 3 7, Russo 2 2 7, Iradi 3 0 8, Casais 1 0 3, Thorp 2 0 4, Bersalona 0 0 0, Richel 1 0 2. TOTALS: 11 8 36
NEPTUNE (57): Brackett 6 0 12, Tino 3 0 6, Foster 2 0 4, Kendle 1 0 2, Yevchak 4 0 8, Young 2 2 6, Evans 7 3 17, Guzman 0 0 0, Patrick 0 0 0, Aragon 0 0 0, Silva 0 0 0, Totten 1 0 2. TOTALS: 26 5 57
Three-point field goals: Russo (W) 1, Iradi (W) 2, Casais (W) 1; Rebounds: Brackett (N) 10; Assists: Evans (N) 6; Blocked shots: Brackett (N) 2, Yevchak (N) 2; Steals: Kendle (N) 5, Totten (N) 5; Halftime score: Neptune 24, Wall 18
Team records: Wall (3-5), Neptune (6-1)