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When Mark Brown retired from coaching, he was quick to point out if he couldn’t live without it, maybe he’d try to get back in it after a year.
Well, true to his word after sitting out the 2013 season, Brown will return to the sidelines, taking over the Elizabethtown football program. Principal Steve Smallwood said the school hired Brown on Thursday night.
“I sat out last year and I missed the games and I even missed the practices,” Brown said. “I told (my wife) Lucy I might try to help somebody, but it’s a hard fit doing that. When this came open, it was the right place at the right time. It’s a new shot in the arm.
“E’town has a rich tradition and it’s an appealing job,” he added. “It piqued my interest. It was the right job at the right time at the right place. It was the perfect storm, so to speak.”
The five-member committee – Smallwood, Elizabethtown athletic director Doug Barnes and former players Bobby McMahan, Robbie Waters and Chip Davis – interviewed three candidates for the position, but quickly realized Brown was the right man for the job.
“He brings instant credibility,” Barnes said. “He’s been at multiple schools and has been to multiple championships. There’s a whole lot left in the gas tank. Mark has always been a motivator and a high intensity guy. When we talked to him, you could still see that fire in his eyes and his passion for football.”
Brown replaces Adam Billings, who resigned earlier this month to become the offensive line coach at Louisville St. Xavier. Billings was 7-26 in three seasons with the Panthers.
“We’re extremely thankful for the job Coach Billings and his staff did the last three years,” Smallwood said. “They put in the time and they were able to see all the hard work start to pay off this year. The foundation is there.
“To be able to secure Coach Brown, that’s a tremendous move for our football program,” he added. “He has an amazing resume. He’s excited about the opportunity and we’re excited to have him join us at E’town.”
Following the 2012 season, Brown stepped down at John Hardin after coaching for 36 years, the last 32 as a head coach. He finished his career with a 272-121 record, including going 116-34 at John Hardin.
Brown, who is 13th on the KHSAA’s career win list, also built winning programs at Marion County and Nelson County, leading the Cardinals to the 1996 Class 4-A state title.
“He’s coached at three places and he’s been successful at all three,” Smallwood said. “He’s won a state championship and led teams deep in the playoffs. He’s been highly successful everywhere he’s been, so we’re excited to bring him to E’town High School.”
Brown built John Hardin into a state power, leading the program to 11 consecutive winning seasons. The Bulldogs won 11 or more games six consecutive seasons and seven of Brown’s last eight. They won or shared the district championship seven times, claimed five straight region championships and reached the 2009 5-A state championship, falling to Fort Thomas Highlands.
Now, Brown will try to have the same success at Elizabethtown, which is coming off a 6-5 season. The Panthers should return a wealth of talent for Brown to work with as they only lose five seniors.
“They have a good bunch,” said Brown, who saw the Panthers play last season. “I don’t know specifics, but they will have a good junior class. I know they have a pretty good middle school program. I could see they have talent and they play hard. Those are two good things to look at. We just have to get in there see what we have and identify strengths and weaknesses.”
Brown plans to use the Wing-T, which he has used at every coaching stop. The Bulldogs had great success with it, averaging more than 40 points per game in five of Brown’s last six seasons, and they had nine 1,000-yard running backs.
“I love the offense he runs,” Barnes said. “It’s a great high school offense. It’s one of deception and gets a lot of guys involved. If I’m on the defensive side of the ball, I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, I have to go against the Wing-T.’ It’s a hard offense to stop.”
On the other side of the ball, Brown, who will have his first team meeting Monday, said it depends on his coaching staff. He will meet with the current Elizabethtown assistants this week. Former John Hardin assistant Andrew Hundley will join the staff and Brown said several others have expressed interest.
Elizabethtown has had moderate success in recent years since reaching the 2003 2-A state title game. The Panthers, who won their only state championship in 1969, have had only five winning seasons in the last 10 years and advanced past the second round only twice.
“This is a coach who has had success every place he’s been and he’s done what we wanted to achieve,” Smallwood said. “He’s had seven undefeated regular seasons. He’s done what our players want to do. We’re excited about Coach Brown to do what he’s done at other stops.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.