Brown raring to go as St. James football coach

For The Sun NewsApril 1, 2014 

— Robby Brown sure isn’t talking like he’s got an interim tag attached to his title.

The new St. James head football coach is all-in on his most recent gig, and he’s confident he can build on what his two predecessors started. The Sharks, who have yet to post a winning record on the field in a decade of varsity ball, now have Brown running the show.

“If I take it as an ‘interim,’ I get to be with these kids right now,” he said Tuesday. “… If they had to advertise it, that’s not the best thing for St. James. I could put my name in the hat, but it’s going to put us farther behind. Right now, we’re going to hit the ground running. This is Day 1. Tomorrow, we’re going to work. I took a year off. We’re going for the long term.”

Brown, who is nearing the end of his second year as a science teacher at St. James, did not coach in 2013 after more than two decades at the high school and college levels. The 47-year old was a graduate assistant at Clemson from 2000-2002 and also worked as the defensive coordinator for a year at Carolina Forest before taking on the interim head coaching position there in 2004. He then served as Chuck Jordan’s offensive coordinator at Conway from 2005-2011.

He has the diversity in his resume to be a head coach, and if all goes well at St. James in the coming eight months, he could move into the job full time.

That’s what Principal Vann Pennell has in mind, at least.

“When it feels right with the conversation, I look in your eye and you look in mine and it goes off, you see the gleam, that’s a natural progression that fell in place,” Pennell said. “I felt very comfortable from those discussions.

“He had always been in the back in of my mind since the very beginning. There was interest there because I knew what kind of a person he is, what kind of character and integrity he has. You watch him teach; the kids respond to him. He’s well-respected by the faculty. And he’s knowledgeable at football, too.”

Pennell and Athletics Director Paula Lee have been open about the fact that Brown wasn’t the school’s first choice. The school announced its three finalists last week through a release from Horry County Schools. Ayden-Grifton (N.C.) coach Paul Cornwell was offered the position but turned it down Thursday morning. By that point, Georgetown’s Bradley Adams and Cabell Midland (W.Va.) coach Luke Salmons had already pulled their names from consideration for various reasons.

Brown had not even applied for the opening – created when Mark Fischer returned to his old job at Louisa County (Va.) in February. That was something the school and its new coach remedied in a hurry Thursday and Friday of last week.

“I’ve asked myself that many times,” Brown said of his reluctance the first time around. “I don’t know the exact answer of why I didn’t apply. The best description I could tell you is kind of what I told the kids … I was standing too close to the picture. When you stare at the picture, you’re only looking at one little spot. Once you back up and you look at it, I realized this is a great opportunity.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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