Farewell Tour: East’s Brown to retire at end of season

Over the past two decades, Danny Brown has built a formidable girls basketball program at Columbus East.

Earlier this week, Brown announced that this, his 20th season at the helm of the Olympians, will be his final one. He is retiring at the end of the season.

“I’ve been involved in basketball since I picked up a basketball when I was 8 years old,” Brown said. “I’ve been at it basically since then, and it’s time for me to enjoy real retirement. I’ve had a blast here. Me and my wife Bug are just planning on maybe getting away a little bit. She’ll probably try to get me to play pickleball.”

Brown, who is celebrating his 68th birthday today, said he has known for two or three years that the 2022-23 season would be his final one, but that his wife and three adult children are the only ones he had told. He informed his players of his decision on Monday.

“It was during the Thanksgiving break that my wife and kids were home from out of town, and they’ve known about it,” Brown said. “They’re the only ones that have known about it. They knew this was my last year, and they wanted me to go ahead and get it out there, get it over with. I was going to wait until the end of the year, but I thought it best for everybody involved to go ahead an announce it now that I am retiring as Columbus East girls head basketball coach, effective at the end of the year, and hopefully, that’s after a long run in the state tournament.”

With 356 wins in 23 1/2 seasons as a head coach, Brown ranks 16th among active coaches and 44th overall all-time in Indiana. He is 356-187 overall, including 298-159 in 19 1/2 seasons with the Olympians. This year’s team is 5-4 following Tuesday’s 71-49 win against Bloomington North.

Danny Brown takes the stage during the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony March 25, 2015 at Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis.

The Republic file photo

A former standout at Jennings County who played collegiately at Louisville, Brown was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Brown coached the girls teams at Jennings and Greensburg before coming to East in 2003. He had early success with the Olympians, winning a sectional title in 2005, his second season. That began a run of four consecutive 20-win seasons that included a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2007 and a final four appearance in 2008.

Columbus East coach Danny Brown tries to settle his team as the clock runs down against East Central in the East Central Sectional final Saturday, Feb 3, 2018 at East Central High School in St. Leon, IN.

The Republic file photo

East also won sectional titles under Brown in 2011 and 2018. He has had double-digit wins in each of his first 19 seasons at East.

“The girls, all along the way, all 20 teams, I’ve enjoyed having,” Brown said. “I hope they’ve learned something about basketball and life because I’ve had a blast. Back-to-back Final Fours was definitely something that when you’re able to put a couple banners up there and leave a legacy like that, those were great teams and great players. I’ve just had a blast with a lot of great players, a lot of great assistant coaches and great fans.”

Willie Humes has been alongside Brown as an assistant for 17 of the 20 years, leaving for a three-year stint as head girls coach at Madison in the middle of that run. JV coach Kylie Weichman has been on staff the past 12 years, and former Olympian point guard Brooke (Ballard) Ables is in her third year as an assistant.

“I’m so proud of our program and what we’ve done over these 20 years,” Brown said. “I have great assistant coaches. Willie Humes was my first hire at East 20 years ago. I can’t have the success I’ve had without him. He’s one of the nicest, most genuine people you’re ever going to meet. The players loved Willie. I will miss coaching with him. Our passion for the game was a great combination.”

Brown also feels fortunate for the support he has received from administrators.

“I’ve survived two superintendents, three principals and three athletic directors, so I’ve been around awhile,” Brown said. “I love Columbus East. They gave me that opportunity 20 years ago, and I’ve tried to make the most of it.

“Not too many coaches in basketball or other sports get to go out on their own terms,” he added. “Columbus East has afforded me that opportunity. I’m as proud of that as anything, to go out on my own terms. I know (former football) coach (Bob) Gaddis was able to do that, and for me to be able to do that, that says a lot about all those players and coaches that we’ve had along the way.”

Pete Huse, who took over for Gaddis as East athletics director in 2015, pointed to a few of Brown’s accomplishments.

Columbus East basketball girls coach Danny Brown reached win number 300 for his career in 2019. Brown is pictured in the Columbus East boys basketball locker room Thursday, March 14, 2019 in Columbus, Ind.

The Republic file photo

“What he has been involved in in my eight years with the renovation of the basketball locker rooms and making Columbus East girls basketball special, that’s something to be proud of,” Huse said. “Anymore, with a major sport, it’s year-round. Looking at our schedule with where it was eight years ago to where it is today, I’ve got to believe we have one of the toughest schedules in the state, and that’s what we need to get to where we need to go. He has a great run in the conference going right now (with back-to-back undefeated Hoosier Hills Conference seasons). Over the last eight years, girls basketball and volleyball are the two most consistent girls programs we’ve had here at East.”

Columbus East girls basketball coach Danny Brown cheers after beating Bloomington South in the first round of the sectional Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Ind.. The Olympians beat the Panthers 33-28.

The Republic file photo

Brown, who retired from teaching six years ago, said he likely will continue attending the Olympians home games.

“He lives and breathes Columbus East basketball, but he’s just a basketball guy,” Huse said. “He’s at almost all the home boys games. Basketball is just a passion for him, the effort that he puts in trying to keep Columbus East strong in girls basketball.”

“I want to be a spectator,” Brown added. “I’ll just be a sports junkie. I love basketball. I’ll probably be at all the home games here. Columbus East nation has just been so good to me. I just want to enjoy real retirement.”

But that doesn’t mean he’ll be sleeping in.

“I will continue to meet my good friends Darold Bass and Matt Taylor for coffee early each morning at Third Street McDonald’s,” Brown said. “They need a lot of help with sports trivia, and they think they know something about coaching. We’re like family, albeit a dysfunctional family.”