November 30, 2023

To The NBA and Back

By B&SC Athletics Team

To The NBA and Back

Bryant & Stratton men’s basketball coach Damone Brown has had a storied basketball career. From humble beginnings in Buffalo to Division 1 college basketball to the NBA to international play, Coach Brown has excelled at every level of the sport. In his time as a coach with Bryant & Stratton, he has led the Buffalo Bobcats to appearances in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Tournament each of his years with the team, highlighted by a national runner-up finish in 2021-22. Last season, Brown helped the Buffalo Bobcats achieve a program-best 24 wins and a number three seed in the national tournament. Since Brown came on board, the Bobcats have held wins over opponents at the NCAA II and III, NAIA I and II, NJCAA, and USCAA I and II levels.

Where the Journey Began

The path to Coach Brown’s career began at an early age, stemming from a trip to the local Boys & Girls Club with his older brother. “I want to say I was in sixth grade,” said Brown. “I walked into the club, and I picked up a basketball and it kind of felt natural to me. I started playing in grammar school in seventh grade, and I started taking it seriously once I got into high school.”

While basketball came to Brown naturally, it took a while before he would come into his own. His first year playing as a freshman was fun, though playing time was scarce. That was, until he met his mentor, Stan Martin. “I met Stan through my best friend, Terrell,” said Brown. “Stan wanted to put together a team for a summer league called the Randy Smith League. Stan already had Terrell as one of his players, and he came by my house one day, we talked for a minute, and he put me on the team. From that day on, he’s been a role model. A real father figure, mentor, coach; whatever he needed to be for us.”

That mentorship turned Brown’s budding career around. “We worked out a lot over the summer,” said Brown. “I came back sophomore year and became a starter on a team. Once that happened, everything just took off. I made All States and got Player of the Year. I think I received every kind of award you could get in Western New York by the time I graduated.”

Collegiate Career

While Brown’s college aspirations were humble when he started playing in high school, his success created multiple avenues to choose from when it came time to decide where to attend. “Like I said, when I first started playing in high school, I didn’t really play a lot, so my thoughts were to go to one of the local colleges or go play at a school like Brockport,” said Brown. “That would have been good, but as I started playing basketball more and growing and getting better and getting out to see more of it, I wanted more. So, by the time I got to my senior year, I kind of had the pick of the litter as far as where I wanted to go.”

“There were a few different schools I was looking at, like Michigan and UCLA,” continued Brown. “But I set my sights on Syracuse University. They had just won the national championship, and while it was away from home, it was still close enough that my family could come see me play. I could get away, but if I needed to get home, I was two hours away. Plus, they had everything that I wanted. They had a great basketball tradition. Having a chance to play in the Dome was phenomenal, not to mention playing for a Hall of Fame coach like Jim Boeheim. Everything I could ask for was right there.”

Brown’s time with Syracuse mirrored that of his time in high school. “My first year, I didn’t really play a lot,” said Brown. “By the time my sophomore year came around, maybe the fifth game of the year, I became a starter and never looked back. My time there was good. As I was talking to coaches, they said that I could have a chance to play in the NBA if I did certain things, like get stronger, become a more consistent rebounder, and lock in and focus in on the game.”

The Big Show

Brown would have a chance to play in the NBA, but not before a lot of hard work after his college career ended. “Our last game was in March, and draft day was June 28, so for March, April, and May, I was constantly on the move,” said Brown. “I went and worked out with 18 different NBA teams. I was traveling from city to city. I went to Phoenix for a week to play. I went to Memphis. Before Memphis, I was in Vancouver. I was in Toronto, Minnesota, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, all over the place. There was a big camp in Chicago, so I was out there for a week working out. When I wasn’t traveling, I was back in Syracuse working out with the coaches, making sure I was in tune and ready to go. So, it was definitely a grind, but it’s an experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.”

From Syracuse to Philly

After receiving his degree in Information Science and Technology from Syracuse, Brown was drafted into the NBA by the Philadelphia 76ers. While Brown acclimated to the NBA well, he found that the biggest difference was in the vernacular. “Game-wise, I felt like I could hold my own, but it’s like learning different languages. The language in college may be different compared to the NBA, but it means the same thing. So, it may be the same play, but in the NBA, they call it something else. So, it was a learning curve, but I was always confident in my game and my skill set. I felt that I could hold my own out there. That didn’t waver.”

While Brown felt comfortable in the league, he found himself playing with, and against, his basketball heroes, which could be intimidating. “I remember the first time walking into the gym and I’m playing with Allen Iverson,” said Brown. “What helped me out a little bit was that I had a Syracuse guy as my teammate. Derek Coleman was my teammate in my rookie year, so he took me under his wing and showed me how to handle myself on the road and how to handle myself as a pro. But walking into a gym and playing with Allen Iverson was like, wow. My first NBA game was against Minnesota and Kevin Garnett. That’s the player I looked up to. I see myself in him a little bit, as a tall forward who can do more than just posting up and playing different aspects of the game. So, just to walk in and see him was something.”

Post-NBA Career

Brown played with the 76ers for a year and a half, then moved around the league playing for teams like the Toronto Raptors, the New Jersey Nets, and the Washington Wizards. His career took a shift when he started playing internationally. “The first place I played overseas was Korea, and then I went to Japan. I played in the Netherlands. I played in China. I’ve played in a few places. I was always told, ‘Play the game as long as you can.’ And I was fortunate to play over 10 years of professional basketball. I ended up tearing my Achilles the day after Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles. I could have gone back and finished playing overseas, but by that time, I had started coaching my son in high school, and I decided to get into coaching. I just felt like I could stay a part of the game and not have to travel far away from home.”

Coaching, as it turned out, came naturally for Brown. “I just tried to take a little from what all my coaches that I’ve ever played for gave me and give it to them,” said Brown. “I had a chance to play for some Hall of Fame coaches, starting with Coach Boeheim. I played for Larry Brown, who’s a Hall of Fame coach. I played for Lenny Wilkins, who was a Hall of Fame coach. Even Stan and some of the stuff that he taught me at an early age, I still use now.”

Why Bryant & Stratton

Coach Brown came to Bryant & Stratton because he saw the potential in the Buffalo Bobcats program and the players. He was excited to use all the lessons he learned and shape the skills of his players and team. Brown said that having a coach with an NBA background can offer a unique perspective on the game. It can also act as a powerful motivator and role model for student-athletes. “Coaching has helped me learn that you have to have patience and good listening skills and be understanding. You’re always learning as a coach. I learn from my players every day.”

Having played at the highest level of professional basketball, he possesses a deep understanding of the nuances, strategies, and demands of the sport. This knowledge is invaluable for his players looking to make their mark in the basketball world. He shares his firsthand experiences, real-life examples, and insider tips that help his players develop their skills. His success story can serve as a reminder that with hard work, dedication, and the right guidance, college athletes can achieve their dreams of playing at the professional level.

Click here to learn more about Bryant & Stratton’s men’s basketball program.