Brett Brown Guides Australia at World Championships

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His column will appear every Wednesday.

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Brett Brown
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

When the Spurs scattered for the summer, no one scattered quite like assistant Coach Brett Brown. He took a job on the other side of the world.

You may have heard. The World Championships are unfolding in Kayseri, Turkey. What you may not have heard is that Brown is coaching the Australian national team, also known as the Boomers.

It’s some gig. After the 2009-10 Spurs season ended, Brown left San Antonio, assembled a team in Down Under, won nine of 10 warm up games in four countries, then flew into Turkey.

“Since the Spurs’ season ended, we’ve been through China, France, Argentina and Australia,” Brown said. “Our goal is to finish better than fourth in our pool so we don’t have a crossover game against the United States.”

The Aussies, you could say, are playing short-handed. The Boomers are missing their Big Boom, third-team All-NBA center Andrew Bogut. Though Bogut continues to recover from a horrific arm injury, Brown remains upbeat.

“This is a fantastic group to coach,” he said. “Our players have chemistry, toughness and they’ve come in shape. Those are our three cornerstones.”

Brown’s first game as head coach at the World Championships ended memorably. The Boomers trailed Jordan for three quarters on Saturday, but rallied in the fourth to escape with a 76-75 victory. Former Houston Rocket David Andersen clinched the win with two free throws in the final seconds. But it was Bogut’s replacement in the middle, European star Aleks Maric, who led the team with 23 points.

“Al Maric carried us,” Brown said through an e-mail after the game. “He joined us late but we are grateful for his physical presence and talent.”

Brown’s Boomers followed with another thriller, losing 74-72 to top-seeded Argentina. Can the ride get any more exciting?

“I am honored to be part of this event,” Brown said. “I enjoy coaching my players and I get very consumed watching all of the countries play. ... I think this experience will help better prepare our team and myself for the London Olympic games.”

In 2009, Brown was named coach of the Australian national team, a position he will serve through the 2012 Summer Games. He assists Coach Gregg Popovich from mid-September through June. He coaches the Boomers the rest of the year.

“I feel very grateful the Spurs have allowed me to do this,” Brown said. “I feel tremendous responsibility to the country of Australia to do a good job.”

His roots in Australia run deep. After playing for Rick Pitino at Boston University, Brown worked for AT&T until he felt a tug to travel. He visited New Zealand and Australia, and then he felt another tug.

The son of a New England Hall of Fame high school basketball coach, Brown asked the John Wooden of Australia for a job. Lindsay Gaze hired Brown as an assistant and a long partnership began. Brown started with the Melbourne Tigers in the late 80s, became head coach of the North Melbourne Giants in 1993 and enjoyed remarkable success.

He won a National Basketball League championship with the Giants in 1994, earned Coach of the Year honors and accumulated 149 victories in nine seasons, the sixth highest total in league history.

Along the way, Brown met Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and another important friendship formed. Brown has been a part of all four Spurs’ championships -- the first season in business operations, the other three as an assistant coach. He also assisted the Australian national team at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics.

The coaching life is a whirlwind. After the Spurs exited the playoffs in May, Brown prepared for the draft, got ready for the Boomers and landed in Australia. “The rest between the two seasons was very small,” he said. “But I truly didn’t want to rest. I love the jobs that I have.”

The World Championships end on Sept. 12. Brown flies to San Antonio the next day. A week after that, he joins Pop and crew for their first staff meeting. After a dizzying run in Turkey ends, a long grind back home begins.

“I enjoy it,” Brown said. “The Spurs are very respected throughout the world with the blue print they’ve established. I’ve tried to steal as much of it as I can to implement in this (Australian) program.”

Australia has been good to Brown. He met his wife there, had two daughters there and learned to coach under Gaze, who was recently selected to the FIBA Hall of Fame. The U.S. has been kind as well. He had a son here, became a Spurs assistant and has shared in four championships. Two worlds. Two educations. Two fulfilling jobs.

“I am privileged,” Brown says, “to live a pretty good life.”