Ex-Cat Dale Brown brings Rick Pitino's press back to Rupp Arena

Ex-Cat adapts style at Dillard

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 4, 2010 

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As the coach at Dillard University, former Kentucky player Dale Brown brings a former Kentucky playing style to Rupp Arena on Friday night.

"We pretty much play the same way that I played when I was at UK," Brown said last week.

Of course, that means "Pitino ball," the full-court-pressing, three-point-shooting style that propelled Kentucky to the 1993 Final Four when Brown played.

"Run-press-and-shoot style of play," Brown said. "Press the entire game."

Especially early in his tenure, then-UK coach Rick Pitino noted how the style could enable the less-talented team to prevail. Brown, who came to UK billed as a great shooter and left with a reputation as a top-drawer defender, is under no illusions about his NAIA team beating Kentucky or even keeping it close.

"I'm sure they'll win by 30 or 35," he said before adding, "It'll be a good tuneup for them, I know that."

Brown plans to throw pressure at UK's freshman guards and see how they react. When told that UK Coach John Calipari had said that opponents will try the 1-3-1 zone that West Virginia used in beating the Cats last March, Brown said, "I'm definitely going to introduce it to him so he can work on it."

Dusting off terms not heard in Kentucky for more than a decade, Brown said he uses the same "Black" press (deny the inbounds pass and pressure relentlessly) and the "White" press (allow the inbounds, then pressure relentlessly) that he learned from Pitino.

"I loved it, the 'Black' press," he said. "I just like to get after people. I knew we were in better shape than any team we'd play against. Fatigue would set in, they'd throw the ball away and you got 'em."

Sometimes it appeared that Kentucky fouled continually and dared the referees to call all the infractions.

"Yeah," Brown said with a chuckle, "that was it, basically. That's basically what I'm trying to do here."

As UK fans saw in the exhibition victory over Pikeville on Monday, the referees are not so lenient with hand-checking anymore. The refs called 37 fouls on Pikeville, which did not press continually, and the Cats shot 56 free throws.

"Basically, I've been preaching to play defense with your feet and try to use your hands as little as possible," Brown said, "because they're calling the touchy-touchy stuff."

While playing a team coached by a former player can look charitable, that's especially true with the Kentucky-Dillard game. Hurricane Katrina devastated Dillard, which is next to Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans' seventh ward. Besides flooding the entire school, Katrina's aftermath included a fire that destroyed one building and a bus fire that destroyed the belongings of 37 students who were to be evacuated.

School sessions resumed five months later in the spring semester of 2006. Students took classes in The New Orleans World Trade Center and The New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel.

With reconstruction completed, Dillard's enrollment has grown from 850 when Brown arrived in 2008 to about 1,100.

Katrina also necessitated perspective. Athletics not only took a back seat to academics, but it also took up space in the trunk. That left Brown with only six scholarships to offer and no recruiting budget. In his three seasons, he's signed five players.

So no surprise the team had a 12-18 record in his first season. After four seniors ran out of eligibility, the Bleu Devils dipped to 4-23 last season.

As he perseveres, Brown keeps in mind the advice he got from two former Pitino assistants at UK: Herb Sendek and Tubby Smith. "Make do with what you have," Brown said they told him. "Just work hard and make sure the players go to class ... and make sure they abide by everything you put forth."

Exhibition games against teams such as Kentucky help give Brown's program badly needed funding. He lost to former teammates John Pelphrey and Travis Ford in exhibitions at Arkansas (77-59) and Oklahoma State (97-55) last year. He's scheduled games at Florida (Billy Donovan), Louisville (Pitino) and Arizona State (Sendek) next year.

The team he brings to Rupp Arena includes six walk-ons. The other players share six cannibalized scholarships.

"I'm trying to work my butt off," Brown said, "and do the best job I can."

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