ALBANY — By the end of the coming weekend, the UAlbany men’s basketball season could be complete.
With that conclusion, it’s possible another one could be reached, as well.
The contract of head coach Will Brown — the leader of the Great Danes’ men’s basketball program since Dec. 20, 2001 — expires after this season, which continues Saturday for fifth-seeded UAlbany with an America East Conference playoff game against eighth-seeded NJIT at Hartford.
Both UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson and Brown declined comment Monday on the status of Brown’s future at UAlbany, other than Benson acknowledging it will be one of the topics of discussion when the two men meet after the Great Danes’ season is complete to discuss the state of the program, which is an annual conversation that occurs.
Brown is one of the most-successful coaches in America East Conference history, with his five league championships only matched in the conference’s history by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Jim Calhoun.
But this is the final season of Brown’s most-recent contact extension, a multi-year extension that was awarded prior to the start of the 2016-17 campaign. His current contract paid him $402,224 in total pay for 2019, according to the database at seethroughny.net.
Brown regularly receives praise from his coaching peers in the America East as one of the league’s top coaches, and UAlbany has made five NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure. The last of those appearances came in 2015 after the Great Danes won their fifth America East championship, while UAlbany last made it to an America East championship game in 2017.
Barring a run to the conference championship game, this stop-and-go, abbreviated season played amid the novel coronavirus pandemic is on track to conclude as the third consecutive losing campaign for the Great Danes after they had recorded seven consecutive winning seasons. UAlbany finished the 2020-21 regular season at 6-8 overall and 6-6 in America East action.
In conference play, UAlbany had eight consecutive winning seasons prior to back-to-back 7-9 campaigns during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. The 2018-19 season was the campaign after the program unexpectedly lost star backcourt Joe Cremo and David Nichols as graduate transfers, and needed to rebuild during the offseason. The 2019-20 campaign saw the Great Danes start 14-12 overall before losing their final six games during an injury-plagued season.
Brown started his tenure with UAlbany as an assistant coach, then became the interim head coach during his first season at the school. The interim tag was removed from Brown, now 49 years old, in March 2002.
Prior to heading to UAlbany, Brown was the head coach at Sullivan County Community College for three seasons. Before that, the Long Island native and Dowling College graduate spent three seasons as an assistant coach for Brian Beaury at Saint Rose.
During his career at UAlbany, Brown has received a variety of coaching- and community-based awards. Last year, he received the “Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award,” an honor to recognize the work his wife Jamie and he have done in support of the American Cancer Society.
The longest-tenured head coach in the America East, Brown owns a career head-coaching record of 314-294 at UAlbany. Only Doc Sauers has coached more games at the school than Brown, who has coached all but 64 of the Great Danes’ games since they moved to the Division I level.
UAlbany heads into this year’s playoffs off a win against Stony Brook at SEFCU Arena. Speaking after Sunday’s win, Brown said the Great Danes will be ready for their chance to make a run at earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“This is a fun time of year,” Brown said. “You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. Sounds harsh, but that’s the reality of it — and we want to stick around for as long as we possibly can. There’s nobody in this league that we cannot beat, in my opinion. We have to play well and stay healthy for that to happen, and we have to eliminate some of these self-inflicted mistakes that we made throughout the season.”