Ex-Missy Gator giving back

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

[6/29/03]All the kids stare at Donna Brown. From the moment the whistle falls from her mouth, their gazes are fixed on her, anxiously awaiting her words.

The fiery Brown barks out instructions, and the kids follow them without question.

To some, the charismatic coach could appear intense and ruthless, but then she follows it up with some horseplay and joking, putting any notion of seriousness aside.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

This two-faced combination has served Brown well through her years of coaching basketball.

Brown excelled on the court in her days at Vicksburg High and turned her basketball beginning into a career. After spending four years as a starter for Mississippi State, she took up an assistant coaching job at Belmont University in Nashville.

Her success there will lead her to a promotion next week to associate head coach, Belmont head coach Tony Cross said.

But Brown hasn’t forgotten where it all started.

She began her first year of her “Back to the Basics” basketball fundamentals camp last week at Vicksburg High, and she plans to make it an annual summer tradition.

“It’s something I wanted to do because I know the kids are athletic, but a lot of them don’t know the fundamentals of basketball,” she said.

Brown has taught the kids, who range from 7 to 16 years old, the proper way to shoot, pass, use pivots and play defense.

To some it may seem trivial, but to Brown, basketball is her life, and she lives to teach basketball to others.

“I want to look back on the next 10 years and say, Look at what’s going on with the kids that we taught 10 years ago. Look where they are now,'” she said. “That’s what I want.”

Brown first picked up a basketball at the age of 12, playing with her brother and other kids from around the neighborhood.

As with most female athletes, she had to prove she belonged on the court, and it was only a matter of time before Brown showed her skills.

She began to play more and more and soon realized that she had an incredible passion for the game one that still burns to this day.

“I knew I wanted to play (basketball) when I was about 14, after just playing with the guys and doing it so much,” she said.

Brown made the team at Vicksburg Junior High and played against other girls for the first time.

“When I first played with girls I was so much quicker and faster because I played with boys,” she said. “I was jumping higher, reacting much quicker than everybody. It was delightful, but it wasn’t challenging.”

When Brown joined Vicksburg High’s team in 1985, she saw some challenges, but quickly excelled as both a point guard and shooting guard.

Then-head coach Doc Stephens said Brown was extremely competitive and absolutely hated losing. Stephens, who now lives in Meridian and coaches at the Lamar School, said Brown would get angry with her teammates if they didn’t play up to their potential.

Brown said she has no doubt that he was the coach who taught her the most throughout her years, and the two still are friendly and keep in touch over the phone.

Stephens said the most important thing he ever taught her was to stay competitive, no matter the circumstances.

“So often with high school girls when you have bad games, they get down on themselves and tend to give up,” he said. “I wouldn’t let them and instead of losing by 30, we might only lose by 2 or 3.”

Looking back, Stephens said he can now see glimpses of a future coach’s personality through some of Brown’s actions in high school, but it wasn’t until she went to college that he realized she would become a coach.

“She always took the game so seriously,” he said. “She always wanted to know everything that was going on.”