Science Hill graduate Brien Crowder is interested in the school’s girls basketball coaching position, and hopefully, school officials are at least interested in Crowder.
The 54-year-old Crowder has a long, accomplished resume. He won a high school state championship at Monument Valley (Ariz.) in the 1990s and won a national small college championship at Bristol College in the ‘80s, beating a Paul Westphal-coached team in the semifinals. One of the few losses that season came in double overtime when he was coaching against Belmont’s Rick Byrd.
Crowder jump-started basketball programs at football schools such as Rhea County, Antioch and Immokalee (Fla.), where he currently coaches. His Antioch team was runner-up in the 2006 Arby’s Classic.
He has been a women’s assistant in junior college, and an assistant girls coach at the high school level. He has coached prep girls in golf, cross country and softball.
Crowder wanted the Science Hill boys job when current coach Ken Cutlip was hired, and some would still harbor enough hard feelings to not pursue the girls job that came open when Darrell Barnwell resigned this week after leading Science Hill to three straight state tournaments and back-to-back runner-up finishes. In fact, some close to him suggested as much.
But Crowder has loved Science Hill since long before he played for Elvin Little’s Hilltoppers. Gary Scheuerman was Little’s freshman coach when Crowder and Walter Bradley led the Hilltoppers to the state tournament during Crowder’s senior season in 1976, and Scheuerman coached the Lady ‘Toppers to their first two state tournaments (1984 and ’85) when he had Melissa McCrary.
“I’d love to see Brien get it because I know he’d do a good job with the girls,” Scheuerman said. “I’m sure he’d do as good a job as George (Pitts) or Elvin (Pitts) or me … or anybody. Brien Crowder’s a good basketball coach. He’s proven himself everywhere he’s gone. …
“I don’t know what they’re looking for, but he’s qualified. Brien has the credentials.”
Crowder dreamed of playing for Science Hill while growing up a block from North Side. He played in his backyard against talented families such as the Stuarts (Dee Dee, Charlie, Buddy) and the Simpsons (Sammy, Sherman, Gordon).
Crowder, who played at Wofford before transferring to Milligan, said he developed his long-range shooting due to getting so many shots swatted by the Stuarts.
“They’d block it and I’d have to walk after it,” he said. “So I just kept backing up.”
Crowder would also like to get back near his aging parents, the ones who put a light up in that backyard for childhood night games.
And certainly, Crowder also relishes the idea of coaching talented players such as potential Science Hill returners Tianna Tarter, Keisha Gregory and Gabby Lyon, whose father, Bart, played on the first team Crowder coached. It was a $35 a week position, and Crowder’s Stratton Elementary Blue Raiders included Lyon and two of the Hilltoppers on George Pitts’ 1990 state championship team, Mike and Derrick Bristol.
It is obvious Crowder relates well to his players. In January of 2009 some who had played baseball for him at Cherokee decades earlier drove up for a surprise visit at Bailey’s after learning that Crowder would be there with some 100 friends and family to view the “Deal or No Deal” episode in which he won $234,000.
Scheuerman wasn’t ever mistaken for a so-called players’ coach, but he knows one when he sees one. And he saw how well the Antioch players related to Crowder in the Arby’s Classic.
“Probably Brien’s biggest strength is how well he connects with the kids,” Scheuerman said. “He gets them to play hard. And like I said, Brien knows basketball.”
A multitude of Science Hill graduates such as Scheuerman would like to see one of their own get the coveted Lady Hilltoppers job, and a lot of them would be genuinely excited if it was Crowder.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Crowder said. “I’ve basically done everything I ever wanted to do in coaching except coach at the Hill. I still bleed maroon and gold. My dream is to coach at Science Hill. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”