It’s a one-and-done tournament.
So, right now, only one game remains guaranteed in the tenure of Will Brown as UAlbany’s men’s basketball head coach.
The program’s leader since December 2001, Brown’s most-recent contract extension ends after this season. Brown hasn’t publicly discussed his contract status this season, and both UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson and Brown declined earlier this week to comment on the coach’s future status with the men’s basketball program.
UAlbany, the fifth seed for the America East Conference playoffs, plays 5 p.m. Saturday against No. 8 NJIT at Hartford in its first-round postseason game. Coming off a win against Stony Brook in the regular-season finale, UAlbany is seeking its first America East playoff win since advancing to the 2017 league championship game.
While UAlbany posted back-to-back overall losing seasons during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, and is currently 6-8 overall, America East coaches have continued to praise Brown as one of the conference’s top coaches. He is the longest-tenured coach in the league by several seasons, and his five league championships are only matched in the conference’s history by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Jim Calhoun.
Hartford head coach John Gallagher, whose team is hosting this weekend’s playoff pod that includes UAlbany, said Friday he’d been unaware that Brown was in the final year of his contract. Brown and Gallagher have coached against each other since Gallagher became Hartford’s head coach in 2010, and the Hawks’ leader said he’s always had respect for Brown.
“Will’s record speaks for itself,” Gallagher said in a phone interview. “Five championships. Players do well, on and off the court. He’s been there a long time, and he’s represented the league and the university in a first-class manner. He’s a competitor that all of us in the league have a great respect for.”
Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey, whose team plays Hartford Saturday with the winner advancing to play Sunday against the winner of UAlbany vs. NJIT, expressed a similar sentiment Friday. While Dempsey “certainly” doesn’t know the specifics of Brown’s situation at UAlbany, he knows how he views Brown as an opponent after starting with Binghamton in 2012.
“Will Brown is a heck of a basketball coach, and he certainly has my respect and of the coaching fraternity,” Dempsey said.
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.
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.
This season’s .500 showing in league play was UAlbany’s first such campaign since it finished 9-9 in the 2004-05 conference season.