BY CHRIS MCMANES — Dick Brown’s presence continues to be felt at St. Jerome Academy. On Sept. 16, the school and parish paid homage to the late coach and teacher by naming its gymnasium floor “Dick Brown Memorial Court.” About 250 people attended the ceremony.
Brown coached boys basketball at St. Jerome for 40 years (1966-2006) and led the Jaguars varsity boys to multiple CYO division championships and two Mid-Atlantic city titles (‘74, ’85). His 1985 squad won four tournaments and finished 32-2.
He spent his final 22 years teaching seventh and eighth grade religion, social studies and American history. In 1998, after many years of attending night classes, he earned a degree in history and finance from the University of Maryland University College
St. Jerome Academy Principal Mary Pat Donoghue first knew Brown when she was a student at the Hyattsville parochial school and recalled him coaching her brothers to a championship in 1983. She said Brown was passionate about education and deeply committed to the young people of St. Jerome.
“His coaching techniques followed him into the classroom, with his lectures sometimes sounding like fourth-quarter exhortations to victory, as any neighboring teacher could testify,” Donoghue said during the dedication. “Mr. Brown believed that the formation of his students’ character was more important than anything else.”
After Brown lost his life to cancer on July 6, 2006, Joe Sego and Charley Grau ran the Jaguar Summer Basketball Camp Brown had established in 1986. Grau, camp co-director, was looking forward to the ceremony and reception but died unexpectedly on Aug. 30, 2015. He was remembered with a moment of silence.
Sego, who succeeded Brown as St. Jerome boys varsity basketball coach, said the dedication was a fitting honor. “Coach Brown was the foundation of St. Jerome sports and a legendary figure in Hyattsville,” Sego said. “His values and lessons are still shared with the children of St. Jerome today.”
Tom Ponton, DeMatha Catholic High School’s development director, played on Brown’s first city championship team. He invited three of his teammates – Michael Jones, Kevin Connolly and former Maryland point guard Dutch Morley – to stand with him as he helped celebrate Brown’s legacy.
“We always had very good teams when Mr. Brown was coaching,” said Ponton, recalling that Brown also coached him in baseball at St. Jerome and DeMatha. “There’s no way we could ever repay him for all the time and effort that he put into us.”
The most touching tribute came from Quinn Lindsay, who played basketball for Brown in 1994-95. He choked up talking about all the things Brown did to make him a better player and a better person.
“There were times in my growing up I looked at him as a strong mentor, even considered him a father figure,” Lindsay said. “I loved him and I miss him.”
St. Jerome Pastor Rev. Scott Hahn blessed the floor with former Pastor Rev. James Stack
looking on. Sego drew applause when he unveiled the “Dick Brown Memorial Court” logo.
Brown’s final St. Jerome team (2005-06) included Quinn Cook, a second-team All-American at Duke last year who had a tryout with the Cleveland Cavaliers; Bryon Allen, who plays professionally in Italy; and Victor Oladipo, a rising star for the Orlando Magic.
Brown also coached at DeMatha for 36 seasons. From 1999-2005, he led the Stags’ JV football team to a record of 41-6-1. St. Jerome and DeMatha host the Coach Dick Brown Memorial Turkey Shootout basketball tournament each November.
Tommy Berry, a Catholic University assistant basketball coach and St. Jerome graduate, attended the ceremony, as did longtime St. John the Baptist Coach Mike Landi, DeMatha’s Mike Jones and George Washington’s Mike Lonergan.
“Dick was a good man,” Lonergan said. “I like seeing people like him honored.”
Chris McManes’ two youngest children attend St. Jerome Academy.