When Bill Springer took over the Jennings County boys basketball program in 1973, he had a high-scoring senior guard in Danny Brown.
Springer moved on to Bloomington South, where in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he coached a player named Brent Chitty.
Not only did Brown and Chitty wind up coaching at the same school — with Brown leading the girls and Chitty coaching the boys at Columbus East — they both reached a major milestone this season. Each reached the 300-win plateau for their careers.
“Two really great kids. Well, they’re not kids anymore,” said Springer, now retired and living in Indianapolis. “They both had good attributes as far as coaches are concerned. I always enjoyed watching their teams play and talking to them.”
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Playing for Hall of Famers
Brown, who was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, played for three Hall of Fame coaches. He played for Don Schroeder his first three years at Jennings, then Springer for one year. Brown played four years for Denny Crum at Louisville.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be taught by the best in Bill Springer and Don Schroeder,” Brown said. “A big part of the offensive philosophy goes to (Schroeder) and also coach Crum at Louisville.”
Brown spent three years as the girls coach at Jennings and one year at Greensburg, going a combined 58-28 at the two schools. Then after being away from coaching for three years, he landed the East girls job in 2003.
“I was just working and waiting for the right opportunity,” Brown said. “Mel Good had announced he was retiring, and I thought Columbus was a place I always wanted to get to. We almost moved up here several years before that.”
In his 16 years at East, Brown has had only two losing seasons. He has won five sectional and two regional titles and led the Olympians to a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2007, then took them back to the semistate in 2008.
“That was definitely a highlight,” Brown said. “Four straight 20-win seasons and four straight (Hoosier Hills) conference championships and playing for the state championship, and then probably the surprise was going back (to semistate) the next year after losing Shelby Ross.”
Last week, Brown was selected to be an assistant coach for this year’s Indiana Junior All-Star girls.
Win No. 300 for Brown came Jan. 24 in a 58-43 victory at Connersville. Brown now is 244-137 in 16 years at East and 302-165 in 20 years overall.
“I wouldn’t have got 300 victories without good assistant coaches,” Brown said. “We had some great players. You don’t get to 300 wins without great players and great coaches.”
The longest-tenured of those assistant coaches is varsity assistant Willie Humes, who has been there for 13 years. Brown’s son Dan also spent a year as varsity assistant.
Danny Brown also credited his wife, Teresa “Bug” Brown.
“You don’t get 300 victories without the support of your spouse and family,” Brown said. “I definitely have that, and she’s been a big part of being there for me over the wins and the losses. I wouldn’t be the coach or person I am today without her. She’s been a big influence. With her support, we’ll keep it going for a few more years.”
Getting an early start
Chitty played two years of basketball at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in its final two years as a Division II program. He spent his final two years as a student at Indiana University.
The first job for Chitty came as an assistant at Bloomington North under Hall of Fame coach Tom McKinney.
“I’ve been blessed to play for a Hall of Fame coach, Bill Springer, and I’ve been blessed to coach with Tom McKinney at Bloomington North,” Chitty said. “Then, I’ve been blessed to coach against a lot of good coaches in the state of Indiana. In coaching, if you see something like, you steal it. I’ve just been blessed to have so many good people around me.”
Chitty landed his first head coaching job at Owen Valley in 1994. He went 43-20 in three years there before moving on to Evansville Central for 13 years.
In 2010, Chitty came to East. He is 115-93 in nine years with the Olympians and 301-251 in 25 years overall.
“It’s a testament to the young men who have played basketball that I’ve had the opportunity to coach in the state of Indiana. I’ve been blessed to have coached as long as I’ve coached,” Chitty said. “To have the young men I’ve had that work hard, play unselfish and be coachable, it’s more about them than it is about me.”
Win No. 300 for Chitty came Feb. 16 in a 50-31 home win against Martinsville.
Chitty’s lone sectional championship came in 2004 when he was at Evansville Central. That team included Baseball Hall of Famer Don Mattingly’s son Preston, who now works in the San Diego Padres front office.
Among the other players Chitty has coached is his son Parker, who now plays at Bellarmine.
“The thing I’ll always take away from more than just wins and losses, I love all the kids I’ve been able to coach,” Brent Chitty said. “I’ve had some really, really great guys that I’ve had the opportunity to coach. I have doctors, I have lawyers, I have ministers, I have the right-hand man for the San Diego Padres, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of their life.”
A contrast in styles
Springer, the man who coached both Brown and Chitty in high school, saw a contrast in their leadership styles.
“Chitty is a good leader and was a good leader in high school, probably the most optimistic player that I had,” Springer said. “He was the kind of guy that would get the guys together after practice and tell them how great they were. He was a great leader on the floor, and I wasn’t surprised when he went into coaching.
“Danny was a really good leader, too,” Springer continued. “The guys really liked him at point guard because if he was trapped, he could see over the top of everybody. Danny was a tremendous scorer for us. He averaged 25 a game, and he could have scored more. Chitty was a little more boisterous. Danny just led by example. If he had something to say, people would pay attention to what he was saying. He really knew the game well.”
Neither Brown, 64, nor Chitty, 55, are ready to step away from the game anytime soon. Although Brown is retired from teaching, he still enjoys coaching.
“I have a passion for the game of basketball,” Brown said. “I hope to keep it going. Columbus East has been a special place for me, and they gave me an opportunity when I wasn’t sure if I would coach or teach again. I’ve tried to make the most of it. They’ve given me the stability that other places might not give other coaches.”
Chitty is an assistant athletics director at East, also is still going strong.
“Usually in coaching, you’ll do it as long as they’ll let you because it’s a year-to-year contract,” Chitty said. “As long as I have health and have the love and passion for the game, I’ll coach as long as I can or as long as they’ll let me.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”A Pair of Legends” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Name: Danny Brown
High school: Jennings County
Occupation: Head girls basketball coach and retired teacher at Columbus East High School
Record: 244-137 in 16 years at East; 302-165 overall in 20 years at Jennings, Greensburg and East
Name: Brent Chitty
High school: Bloomington South
Colleges: Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Indiana University
Occupation: Head boys basketball coach and assistant athletics director at Columbus East High School
Record: 115-93 in nine years at East; 301-251 overall in 25 years at Owen Valley, Evansville Central and East