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Washington Irving's Brown keeps on ticking

After 28 years as the Washington Irving Middle School boys’ basketball coach, Leonard Brown (center) was honored during the Middle School Basketball Championships at the Shelburne Community Recreation Center. Also photographed from left to right is Boston Public Schools athletic director Ken Still, official scorer Al Brodsky, school committee member Alfreda Harris and Brown’s friend and former colleague Stan Litchman. After 28 years as the Washington Irving Middle School boys’ basketball coach, Leonard Brown (center) was honored during the Middle School Basketball Championships at the Shelburne Community Recreation Center. Also photographed from left to right is Boston Public Schools athletic director Ken Still, official scorer Al Brodsky, school committee member Alfreda Harris and Brown’s friend and former colleague Stan Litchman. (Pasha Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)
By Justin A. Rice
Globe Correspondent / April 9, 2012
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During the intermission between the girls and boys Boston Middle School League championship games at the Shelburne Community Recreation Center, Leonard Brown walked to half court for what he thought was an award ceremony for Boston Public Schools athletic director Ken Still.

He had no idea he was the main attraction until his name was called over the loudspeakers.

“What are you trying to do,” Brown said as the deception seeped in. “Ah, you got me.”

The 65-year-old started coaching the boys’ basketball team at the Washington Irving Middle School in 1984 and also taught math at the Roslindale school until his retirement as a teacher seven years ago. He's been Washington Irving's coach for 28 years. He credits his best friend and former colleague Stan Litchman, a freelance photographer for the school district and the Globe, with his longevity in coaching.

“He’s one of the reasons I kept coaching and will continue to coach," Brown said. "And I feel as though I’m just beginning, it’s like I’m starting over again. I’m 65 years old but I feel as though I’m a young guy again.”

Brown, who is also a volunteer coach for Northeastern's men's basketball team, won the middle school city championships in 1994 and in 1995. His 2006 team produced several stars, including former

New Mission High big man Ousmane Drame who now plays for Quinnipiac University.

“He knew no basketball when he started at the Irving," Brown said. "He was a soccer player.”

Charlestown senior guard Rony Fernandes, who is being recruited by the University of Maine and Hartford University, was also on that team along with Marco Banegas-Flores, who played for O’Bryant and now plays for Northeastern. Brown said another former player, Roger Paul, who spent a year at Notre Dame Prep, could play Division 1 as well. Former East Boston standout Jeff Amazon played for Brown too.

But those successes are tempered by sadness. Brown, who along with Litchman hosts an annual reunion event for their former players called Warriors for Peace, said he also lost eight players to street violence.

“I want to save lives and that’s what my mission is,” Brown said. “My mission is to save lives and bring community spirit to the city of Boston and try to get ministers, anybody to be a part of it. But it’s all done by the grass roots.

“I want to keep kids off the street through sports and basketball, that is a great way to do it I think.”

Brown’s team lost in the first round of the Middle School Championships this year to Edwards Middle School but he said he is closing in on his 200th victory, nevertheless.

“I think I’m up to 190 or something now,” he said. “But it’s all about bringing kids to another level in their work, their classroom work comes first, grades come first. I’m just going to keep going. This is what I do, this is what my passion is and as long as the lord lets me go on, I’m going to keep going on.

“There is no timeline at all. I’m not going to stop.”

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

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