CHURCH HILL — Christopher Brown was highly recommended as a basketball coach to Falcons athletic director Jim Whalen.
Recommended by Miami Heat coach Erick Spoelstra. By Kansas State coach Frank Martin. By Michigan coach John Beilein.
Those were just a few of the names dropped as references on the resumé of Volunteer’s newly hired boys basketball coach. And they all checked out.
“When I looked at it the first time, I asked myself, ‘Who is this joker with all these names on here?’” said Whalen, who publicly introduced Brown to Volunteer players and boosters at the school Friday.
Brown, an English teacher who has been head coach the past two seasons at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, has shadowed Spoelstra and staff during Miami Heat mini-camps and offseason workouts. He’s also served as director of the Carlos Boozer/Benny Fragela Basketball Camp and as a head coach during an NCAA-sanctioned summer college basketball league at Florida International University — Brown’s alma mater.
During the last two seasons at 3,000-plus student Miami Palmetto, Brown led the Panthers to 17-6 and 18-11 seasons, earning a district championship the first year and a league championship the second.
The Palmetto athletic department was not eager to see Brown depart. But an eventual move to the Tri-Cities was shaping up months before the Panthers’ appearance in the Arby’s Classic this past December.
Brown’s wife, rheumatologist Dr. Annette Abril, joined Arthritis Associates in Kingsport last August. He remained in Miami to finish the school year but continued actively seeking a job in East Tennessee.
Todd Whittemore may have been one of the most colorful basketball coaches in Volunteer’s history. He was certainly one of the most cerebral. After Whittemore left to take over the girls’ program at Johnson County, Whalen, a longtime Whittemore colleague, knew what he was looking for.
Once Brown threw his hat in the ring in March, it didn’t take Whalen long to realize that this was the guy he wanted to hire.
It’s a buyer’s market for coaches right now. But even in this market, Brown is a terrific buy, Whalen said.
“There are some openings in the area, Greeneville in particular. We wanted to snatch him up before Greeneville did,” said Whalen, who was contacted by Brown in March, before the job opening was officially posted.
“The stars aligned for him to get this job. They really did.”
Brown’s high-level basketball connections may ultimately align some stars for Volunteer’s athletic program. Work is already under way to bring Spoelstra to Church Hill next summer for a basketball camp fund raiser.