Phil Brown’s career as a basketball coach has had many highs, but it would be hard to better what he achieved with a group of teenagers in Canberra in 1999.
It was the year he was head coach of the AIS women’s program.
The team won the WNBL title—the first and only time the AIS has won the championship.
“To see a group of 18-year-olds win a professional competition was phenomenal. It was the greatest performance by a team of teenagers. It’s akin to a group of 18-year-olds winning the AFL or NRL premiership. It is of that magnitude.”
It helped that the team included several players who became legends: Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Kristen Veal, Belinda Snell, and the list goes on.
“We recruited Lauren as a 15-year-old. We felt as though we needed to bring her into the program. We knew she was going to be a star,” says Phil.
Basketball has been pretty much his life.
He played for two seasons with the Cannons before moving into coaching with the ACT Junior team and as an assistant coach with the Cannons. In 1986, he was appointed as the AIS women’s assistant coach before taking over as head coach in 1991.
There were also roles with the National Junior Women’s Program and the Opals, and more recently, as an assistant coach with the UC Capitals.
Phil says, “I realised early on that I wanted to coach.”
In 2005, he was appointed Associate Head Coach at the University of Oregon.
This appointment he credits to not only his experience in coaching but also to his degree from the University of Canberra.
“It took me 10 years to get my degree in Applied Science and Sports Coaching. I didn’t start out doing that degree; I changed three times, but I’m happy I finished with it. Professor Frank Pike guided me into the Sports Science and Coaching degree. The degree helped me get the job at the AIS then the University of Oregon. At Oregon, I needed an undergraduate degree to be a coach.”
He is now an esteemed alumnus of the University of Canberra, recognised as such with inclusion on the UC’s Walk of Fame alongside Melbourne Demons president Kate Roffey, former rowing champion and now Wallaroos high-performance director Jaime Fernandez, and Paralympian Matt Levy.
Says Phil, “It’s a great honour. I graduated in 1988 and didn’t have a clear pathway. I didn’t have a plan, but it turned out well”.
Despite retiring as Basketball ACT’s Head of High Performance and Coaching earlier this year, he is still involved in the sport.
“I’m doing a few individual sessions 15 to 20 hours a week. I’m fortunate to do my hobby as my career and I’m keen to do it for as long as possible.”
It’s fair to suggest a generation of basketballers in Canberra are fortunate to have had Phil nurture their careers over the past 30 years.