Sharon boys have a new pilot in the cockpit

  • Sharon Academy boys basketball coach Dave Brown passes around the defense of Jack Lloyd while running a drill during practice in Sharon, Vt., on Dec. 6, 2021. Brown, who splits his time between Vermont and Maryland, replaces longtime coach Blake Fabrikant at the helm. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photograph — Geoff Hansen

  • Sharon Academy boys basketball coach Dave Brown speaks to his team during practice in Sharon, Vt., on Dec. 6, 2021. Brown, who splits his time between Vermont and Maryland, replaces longtime coach Blake Fabrikant at the helm. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Sharon Academy boys basketball coach Dave Brown speaks to players (from left) Maple Moore, Jack Doris, Jack Lloyd, Riley Eastman, Caleb Benjamin, Jaxson Nichols and Daniel Henderson at the end of their practice in Sharon, Vt., on Dec. 6, 2021. Not shown are players Parker Bogardus and Eli Huntington. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • After celebrating with his team, Sharon Academy head coach Blake Fabrikant expresses the joy of victory in front of parents, faculty and friends after they defeated Danville, 60-56, to win the Division IV title in Barre, Vt., on March 18, 2018. The team went undefeated at 24-0 and won the first championship in school history. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Sharon boys basketball coach Blake Fabrikant. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2021 9:21:35 PM
Modified: 12/7/2021 9:21:07 PM

SHARON — Sharon Academy athletic director Blake Fabrikant decided to relinquish his role as head boys basketball coach shortly after boys soccer season ended. It left him little time to find a replacement.

He officially hired Dave Brown to lead the program last Monday, the same day as the first practice of the season.

Fabrikant nearly stepped away from the court before the 2020-21 campaign, but a number of factors led to him staying on for a 12th season. Coming close to leaving made him enjoy last winter even more, despite Sharon struggling to an 0-8 record.

But family took priority for Fabrikant. He wants to spend more time with his young children and his wife, which would be difficult given how much time goes into coaching on top of his athletic director job.

“My wife was pretty blunt about the idea of me being at home. That’s when it really dawned on me that there are things that are more important than what I need. I need to be there for my family,” Fabrikant said. “My responsibility is to be at home right now.”

Fabrikant said the coaching change will benefit the players as well. He thinks having a new voice and a different personality will be valuable for them.

And that’s where Brown, 70, comes in.

He and Fabrikant, 37, are wholly different. In age, personality, experience and many other ways.

Fabrikant is energetic, Brown more stoic. Brown, naturally, has the edge in life experience, but Fabrikant’s 12 years coaching Sharon eclipse his successor’s high school experience.

It will certainly be a different perspective for the Phoenix players. But senior captain Riley Eastman told Fabrikant before the hire became official that the seniors were OK with that, which eased the athletic director’s mind.

And Fabrikant thinks the team will be in good hands.

“We’re really excited, just with his enthusiasm. He’s got this really kind way about him, that I could sort of tell that no matter what happens this season, wins or losses, I know they’re in the hands of a man that is going to teach them valuable life lessons and be a good, decent human being,” Fabrikant said. “And ultimately, that’s the most important thing.”

Brown grew up between White River Junction and Quechee. He left the area in 1973 and lived in Philadelphia and Boston.

He moved to Columbia, Md., in 1985 and raised his kids there. He and his wife bought property in White River Junction in the early 2000s and have split their time between Maryland and Vermont since then. He’s spent more time up north since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brown has plentiful life experience, with three master’s degrees — one in each city he’s lived in, as he said. But his coaching experience is limited. He’s never coached a high school team. He coached a high school age group in a recreation league in Maryland in and later coached elementary schoolers in the same league.

Coaching at the varsity level will be a new challenge for Brown.

“I told Blake that I’m not an Xs and Os guy, but I’m going to have to become one, in a way,” Brown said. “We have to have more structure to our offense than I’m used to. (In rec league), you get an hour of practice a week. So here, I was pleasantly surprised but also taken aback that we’ve gone an hour and a half, five days a week.”

However, Sharon players think that stripped-down approach could serve the team well.

“We’re playing simply, not overcomplicating things, since we are a very low-experience team,” senior Daniel Henderson said. “Having complicated plays and all that stuff kind of gets overwhelming. Having like a simple game plan, I think, is gonna benefit (us).”

The Phoenix players are still adjusting to Brown as well. It was tricky for them to not know who their coach would be until the day the season started.

The kids spent the first week getting to know their new coach, just as much as Brown spent that week getting to know his players.

It will take time for them to feel fully comfortable with each other, but they’re starting to get there.

Despite the age difference, Brown is still active and plays with the kids in scrimmage portions of practice when they need a 10th player on the floor. Henderson and fellow senior Riley Eastman said the team has already made up nicknames for their new coach. They call him ‘Downtown’ Coach Brown, and ‘Good Man’ Coach Brown a nod to Charlie Brown of Peanuts).

The seniors notice and appreciate Brown’s early efforts. Henderson called him a good, honest person.

Eastman liked what he heard during the interview, in which he participated.

“He (admitted) his weaknesses. He didn’t try to hide anything,” Eastman said. “He said everything truthfully. He seems authentic. He said he was pretty emotional, which you can kind of get a feeling of sometimes, (but) not in a bad way.”

Brown sat the team down in a circle one night during the first week of practice. He told them to think about their goals, both for the coming season and for their futures, and to then share with the group. It was partially Brown starting to set targets for his team for the season, but also a way of getting to know each other better. Brown shared more about himself with the team during that activity.

The team goals are evolving, and Brown said they’ll address them again after Sharon scrimmages against Blue Mountain on Wednesday. But Brown had a sense of his early attitude as he tries to lead the Phoenix from the ashes.

“We don’t want to focus on wins and losses,” Brown said. “It’s playing as good as we can play, and the wins will take care of themselves, as long as we don’t lose that focus and do as best we can.”

Seth Tow can be contacted at stow@vnews.com.




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