Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All-Time Great Brown Honored by Siena

It was a memorable night when Siena hosted Florida Atlantic for a relatively non-descript non-conference game earlier this week for reasons far beyond the fact that the home team at the Times Union Center came out on top.

It was a memorable, and enjoyable evening because the Saints honored one of their own, its all-time leading scorer Marc Brown, by retiring his uniform at halftime of the Siena-Florida Atlantic contest.

Brown becomes just the third former Siena player to have his number raised to the home court's rafters. Billy Harrell, arguably the best athlete in school history (in addition to being the program's best pre-Division I player in the 1950s, he also played professional baseball), and 2009 graduate Kenny Hasbrouck are the others.

There was considerable debate in Siena Land about any Division I-era's player (Hasbrouck) having a number retired before Brown.

But, Siena officials said it was no slight, that it prefers to have the individual being honored on hand for the ceremony, and Brown had played 16 seasons of professional basketball overseas before taking over the Division III program at New Jersey City University (formerly Jersey City State) where he has coached for the past three seasons.

Brown brought his team to the area for a pre-Siena contest at the TUC against Rensselaer. Although Brown's team lost it didn't diminish the former Siena standout's night.

"It is just an unbelievable feeling," said Brown. "It's a wonderful night and it brought back a lot of memories."

As Brown made remarks during the ceremony, he thanked those in attendance for their support.

"You, and all the support you showed me, was the sole reason why I stayed here for four years," said Brown, who nearly left Siena after his sophomore season to transfer to Seton Hall.

The support was still evident, exhibited in a semi-private moment that few in attendance likely noticed.

When Brown had finished his post-game address to his own team, he made his way up an aisle of a corner section of the TUC, about midway through the first half of Siena's game, to get to one of the facility's luxury boxes. As those in the nearby sections noticed Brown walking up the aisle they universally began clapping and offering hands for Brown to shake or slap five on his way to his seats.

Nearly 20 years since his 1991 graduation from the Loudonville school he still commands that sort of admiration for his playing career.

And, why not? He remains the school's all-time leading scorer, and still ranks second in career assists.

How good was he? His former coach Mike Deane still calls Brown the best player he ever coached, and Deane coached five seasons at the high-major level when he was at Marquette.

As a former newspaper guy who has covered Siena since the early 1980s, and the MAAC since 1989, the opinion here is one that agrees with Deane. Brown is certainly the best to have played at Siena, at least in the Division I era.

And while Brown only played two MAAC seasons after Siena became a conference member in 1989, he certainly is among the all-time best to have played in the league.

Only former La Salle standout Lionel Simmons has a clear case for being a better player within the MAAC than Brown.

If someone wants to make the case that Brown was the second-best MAAC player all time, there won't be any argument here.

Former Rider center Jason Thomspon was a college standout, and is having a nice NBA career. But, his contributions while in the MAAC, it says here, are just below Brown's.

Keydren Clark, the former Saint Peter's guard, won two NCAA scoring championships and scored nearly 900 more career points than Brown. But, as far as making teammates better and making his own team better ... and, even, just in terms of individual talent ... I'll put Brown slightly ahead of Clark.

Brown was not only a great scorer, but one of the best and most-creative passers to ever play in the MAAC.

There won't be any argument about that coming from current Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro.

Brown's final regular-season game at Siena at the end of the 1990-91 season was played at the school's on-campus Alumni Recreation Center. The opposing team was Fairfield and the Stags' coach at the time was Buonaguro.

Brown scored 44 points setting what was then a single-game school record (surpassed by Doremus Bennerman's 51 points in the consolation game of the 1994 NIT against Kansas State). And, with his team holding a significant lead, Brown came out of that contest with about five minutes remaining.

"We double teammed him, and triple teammed him and we couldn't stop him," remembers Buonaguro. "We tried everything to contain him, but when he got into the open floor he was unbelieveable."

"I felt like I could have scored 100 that night," remembered Brown.

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