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Brown hopes to continue run of success with the Patriots

Fresh off their appearance in the AISA State Championship earlier this year, the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots will enter next season with a new head coach at the helm.

Former assistant coach Matt Brown fills in for former head coach Allen Ponder who left to become the new head baseball coach at Pike Road earlier this month.

“I really can’t put it into words,” Brown said. “I’ve been able to see a lot of these kids grow up and see the progress this program has been able to make. I was very humbled they gave me the opportunity to try and take this ball and keep it rolling.”

Brown played high school basketball at Charles Henderson High School where he was an All-Area player. He later went on to play college basketball at Shelton State before finishing his career at Troy University.

When Brown joined Ponder’s staff four years ago, being a head coach was not on his radar. But, the love for the game led Brown to this opportunity.

“I played basketball my whole life,” Brown said. “My dad played in college and I played in college. It’s just something that we did. It’s something that I enjoy doing. Even before having kids, I coached rec. league. I knew coach Ponder when he was at Alabama and I was at Shelton State. He was looking for an assistant  and we worked great together.”

While on the bench with his long-time friend, Brown watched how Ponder interacted with his players on and off the floor. It’s something he hopes to replicate.

“Probably one of the best coaches you could work under,” Brown said. “Everybody says coach Ponder is this big guy, but they don’t realize he has a heart of gold. He really cares for all his players and will do anything for them. I hope they can continue to lean on me like they did on him.”

Brown has been with the program for the past four seasons. In each of the last three season’s Brown has seen the team take another step closer to accomplishing their dream of winning a state championship. After falling in the Final Four in 2019, the Patriots advanced to the championship this season before falling to Tuscaloosa Academy.

“The thing for us is take the next step,” Brown said. “We’ve been in the Elite 8, the Final Four and now the championship. The last step to take is this one. We are looking forward to doing that.”

This season the Patriots welcome back four of their five starters from last season. After losing Nick O’Brien to graduation, they will be welcoming back Javon Christian, Austin Cross, Drew Nelson and Jeff Knotts. Mixed with key role players, the Patriots will have some key experience returning next season.

“Nick was a good player and I don’t think he got enough credit for how good he was,” Brown said. “He was a great defensive player and a sparkplug for us. We do have the core four coming back and we have some guys that contributed like Avery Ernsberger, who has really put some time in. Bubba Dean has really worked on his footwork and his hands. “

The Patriots won’t look too different on the floor next season. Brown and Ponder worked together while creating their style of play.

“Less is more with us,” Brown said. “We liked to have a basic system and we liked to teach the kids to play within that system. We had one or two offenses that we ran and we had one or two set defenses. I feel if we can get really good at those things it will be a lot better for us as a team moving further.”