Eric Brown among this year’s inductees
Eric Brown doesn’t yell at his players. He doesn’t have to.
Instead, the longtime Suffolk County Community College (New York) coach says one little thing that gets his players’ undivided attention every time.
He says, “Hah.”
“It’s unbelievable, it really is,” said Kyle Weeks, a former All-American baseball player for Brown at Suffolk County and now an assistant coach on Brown’s staff. “No matter where a player is at on the field, when he says ‘Hah,’ they hear it. People will drop what they’re doing and go to him.”
Brown says it the same way every time, Weeks said. And he doesn’t yell it.
That’s the respect Brown commands after a quarter of a century at the helm of the baseball program at Suffolk County, where he was a three-sport athlete himself (basketball, soccer and baseball). This spring he surpassed the 600-win mark (career record: 609-332-7), and his team qualified for this year’s NJCAA Division III World Series, the sixth time Suffolk County has achieved the feat.
After today, he’ll command the respect of a hall-of-fame coach as Brown is one of this year’s four inductees into the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
“It’s a little unbelievable, to be honest,” said Brown, who turned 63 years old Thursday. “What a tremendous honor. It’s kind of breath-taking.”
Asked if he deserves the honor, Brown said, “Honestly, no.”
Brown said he learned to play sports from great coaches, and he’s coached alongside and against great coaches. He knows what great coaching is, and it’s difficult for him to digest the thought that he belongs in the discussion with them.
Brown said he’s had excellent players, excellent support from Suffolk County Community College and incredible assistant coaches on his staff. Two of those assistants are savvy veterans Lou Klammer and Ron Davies. The latter was head coach for 40 years at NCAA Division II Adelphi University, where he won more than 800 games and guided four teams to the Division II College World Series.
“I’m not out here coaching alone,” Brown said. “We have a tremendous staff.”
Brown deflects credit to others, but one of his coaching colleagues, Larry Minor of Nassau Community College (New York), said great assistant coaches gravitate to great head coaches.
“If you are not who you are (as a head coach),” Minor said, “those assistants don’t stick around.”
Minor said his program and Suffolk County are fierce competitors, and one of the reasons Minor and Nassau have been successful is Minor has emulated Brown and the way he runs his program.
“I have the highest, utmost respect for him,” Minor said. “When I got started (coaching), if there was anyone I was going to try to copy, it was him.”
Brown is successful on the field, Minor said, because “no matter where his strength was, he was able to max the potential out of all of his kids. ... He always takes his kids to another level.”
Minor said every year he sees the difference in Suffolk County’s players from their first year to their second.
In addition to Suffolk County’s wins and the NJCAA Division III World Series appearances, Minor said Brown’s players know how to handle their success.
“Coach runs a class program all the way around,” Minor said. “They’re always a class act as far as his kids are concerned.”
So, when it comes to the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, Brown can say he doesn’t deserve the honor, but people like Minor know better.
“He more than deserves it,” Minor said. “He represents what college athletics should be about. Not only are you getting taught to be a better ball player, you’re getting taught to be a better young man.”
Suffolk County Athletic Director Kevin Foley says the same.
Foley said the wins and losses and World Series appearances are great, but they’re not the measure of the man when it comes to Brown. Nor does Brown measure himself by any statistics.
He’d rather talk about his players’ grade-point averages than their batting averages. And his focus on their education has been appreciated. He said he has received many letters of gratitude from his former players over the years, and “that has more value than anything else.”
Foley said two things define Brown: “One, he’s a gentleman. Two, he’s a wonderful human being who really cares.”
Foley also teaches and coaches women’s basketball at Suffolk County, and he’s had some of Brown’s baseball players in his classes. He said Brown reinforces the importance of the classroom to their future success, which most likely will not be on the baseball diamond after college.
Brown is so serious about the academics that he makes his players fill out academic reports that have to be signed by the player and his professors.
“He wanted to know what our grades were. Were we participating? Were we doing our homework? It’s pretty foolproof,” Weeks said.
Foley added Brown is loyal to his players on the field and particularly off the field.
Weeks experienced Brown’s loyalty and caring.
“He just did the right thing by everybody,” Weeks said.
Part of doing the right thing is Brown getting his players to four-year universities after their two years at Suffolk County, as Weeks knows first-hand. He moved on to NCAA Division I Fairleigh Dickinson University to further his education and continue to play baseball.
“He was on the phone to other colleges all the time,” Weeks said. “I never got any looks (from colleges) out of high school. Everything that came my way was because of him. I can’t thank him enough. He knows so many people.”
That player-coach relationship, that’s what Brown likes to credit his success to. He thinks it gets players to play above average.
More over, it earns the players’ respect.
“I see it now more as a coach than I did as a player,” Weeks said. “No one wants to let him down. ... When players get their number called, they’re ready. All of the players respect him as a coach and embrace what he says with open arms.
“They tell new players, ‘Hey, this guy knows what he’s talking about. Listen.’ “
And they do. Because when Eric Brown says, “Hah,” they hear it. And they come running.