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Vicksburg native wins Louisiana coach of year

[4/13/04]Al Brown remembers running on cinder tracks and crushed coal, and landing in sawdust after pole vault attempts. He remembers his state champions, as well as the countless other athletes he’s helped in 30-plus years as a track coach.

Brown, a Vicksburg native and St. Aloysius graduate, now has one more memory to add to the list. He was selected as Louisiana’s coach of the year in boys track and field by the National Federation of High Schools Coaches Association.

The award is given to coaches in each state, in each sport played on the varsity level, for their service and accomplishments. Vicksburg High’s Dellie Robinson won the boys’ basketball coach of the year award for Mississippi.

“It’s really a thrill to even be nominated for this, and it’s a pure surprise to win it,” said Brown, who coaches track and football at Plaquemine High School, located about 15 miles south of Baton Rouge. “I told them, Are you sure it’s the right Allan Brown?’ There are quite a few coaches in this state who are deserving of this.”

Brown has made his own case for the award over the years.

He ran track for St. Al in his high school days, and returned to the school as a coach for one year in 1972. He then moved to Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma, La., and coached at several other Louisiana schools before landing at Plaquemine in 2001.

Along the way, he coached one girls state championship team, at Bishop Sullivan in 1997, and numerous individual state champions. The latest is a girls javelin thrower named Amber Shope, who won the Louisiana Class 4A title as a freshman last spring.

Brown has also been active away from the track. He has helped organize and seed the state meet for years, and has worked on its board of appeals.

“You’ve got to look at his record and what he’s done over the last 15 or 20 years. He’s won a state championship and a lot of district championships,” said Louisiana High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner Mac Chauvin. “If somebody says they can find a better guy than Allan Brown, I want to know who they are.”

Working with young athletes is the most rewarding part of coaching for the 55-year-old Brown. Having a deep enough team to compete for an overall state championship is rare, so molding an individual into a champion becomes a bigger reward, he said.

“It’s the ability to shape and help mold individuals to do things they like to do, or might not want to do,” Brown said with a laugh. “Once they get the bug and try it, just to give them good coaching and let them run with it is rewarding.”