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Monday, Mar 30, 2015
Nature Coast

NCT's Brown reaches 100th career win

Hernando Today correspondent


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Nature Coast Technical mathematics teacher-turned tennis coach Tom Brown reached a rare numerical plateau Wednesday in West Pasco County.

Brown's Sharks crushed the host Mitchell Mustangs, 6-1.

Though NCT junior Jesse DeWitt fell to Mitchell sophomore Daniel Lukish in the No. 1 singles match in New Port Richey, 6-1, 6-3, the loss to the defending district champion didn't dampen the Sharks' resolve.

Just the opposite; NCT netters swept the remaining four singles matches and both doubles matches via pro sets to improve to 5-1.

NCT opened its 11th season behind a trio of 7-0 blowouts before losing to archrival Springstead at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill, 4-3.

Brown's victory Wednesday allowed him to join select NCT hierarchy.

The Sharks' boys basketball skipper Dave Pisarcik enters Saturday's regional final with a career 161-39 (81 percent) won-lost mark.

The only other Shark mentor with 100 career wins is the mat mentor Mike Lastra. Lastra recently completed his 10th season at the helm at 152-131 (54 percent).

Over the past decade, only Pisarcik has coached more games (200) than Lastra (183) at the California Street campus.

Similar to Lastra, Brown paid his dues early on.

? ? ?

Brown, 46, played prep tennis in Pennsylvania, before earning his Bachelor of Science in economics (his minor was in math) at Allegheny College.

Allegheny is a private liberal arts college in Meadville, Pa., 35 miles south of Erie.

After graduation, Brown became a Wall Street stockbroker. For over 10 years, he applied his love of numbers.

After a decade of increasing stress, Brown needed a respite. He turned toward teaching.

He relocated to Hernando County and coached one year of tennis at Powell Middle School.

With NCT in its infancy, Brown was hired as a math instructor.

He took over the NCT boys tennis program that went 4-20 after two seasons with its inaugural mentor John Downey.

As the stats say, Brown's first year at the helm was a work in progress.

His first season of 2006 was his first and last with a losing record at 6-9. That spring, in the inaugural Hernando County Conference Tournament, the Sharks finished fourth out of four teams.

Brown dropped his first-ever matches to Hernando and Springstead before garnering his first-ever prep win on his third try Feb. 22, 2006 at home against Hudson, 7-0.

In regular-season action, Brown's first team went winless against its county brethren at 0-6.

That season NCT finished third out of seven teams in the season-ending Class 2A, District 6 Tournament at Delta Woods Park.

With a two-year exception to Central and the current state of Springstead's program, since that spring NCT netters have been the county's dominant force.

Again, the sheer numbers bare it out.

Under Brown, the Sharks are 101-33 lifetime (75 percent) and are a collective 44-13 (77 percent) against county teams during regular-season action.

Under Brown's tutelage, NCT has raised four Hernando County championship banners (2009-11 and '13), claimed four district titles (2007, '09-11), finished as district runners-up twice (2012-13) and been represented at states five times.

Brown's 50th career win arrived at Central on March 10, 2010 behind a 4-3 rally.

Since the millennium, only one other Hernando County mentor has 100 career tennis victories at one school - Joe Nicolai at Central.

Before he retired from teaching, in nine seasons Nicolai's female netters set the bar high with a brilliant 107-27 (.799) won-lost run.

In that span, Nicolai's teams collected six district titles and two district runner-up trophies.

More importantly, besides his teams capturing 8-of-9 county titles, Nicolai's netters garnered 19 district singles individual championships and nine doubles titles.

Though he's a self-described "numbers guy" Brown wasn't wrapped up with his 100th win.

"I haven't thought much about my first win or my 100th," shrugged Brown, downplaying the milestone. "What I do keep track of is my players' wins.

"Of all the numbers, what really matters is them going to states," insisted Brown. "Going to states fuels the kids; that's what drives me. You can see it in the kids' faces when we accomplish something like going to states. Honestly, I didn't think I was close to 100 (wins); it's kind of hard to believe."

On turning the pages of his coaching resume, Brown has had his share of "rebuilding" years, but never a season where the Sharks drifted back to square one.

The soft-spoken Brown, who resides in Homosassa with his wife, has had his share of adversity.

In the summer of 2009, promising junior-to-be Simon Toftegaard was accidentally killed in Europe while riding a bicycle.

Over the last 10 years, Toftegaard might be considered Hernando County's finest-ever player. He was coming off a 17-0 season in singles play as a sophomore.

His loss stunted the growth of the burgeoning NCT program.

Toftegaard's memory hasn't vanished thanks to a local preseason tournament named in his honor.

To this day, Coach Brown finds it difficult to label his protégés.

"Let's just say I've fortunate to have some very capable players at NCT," explained Brown, without naming names. "I've been lucky. I've had some super kids and we've had to deal with adversity."

Brown's biggest personal pet peeve is when netters choose not to come back and play.

"It really disturbs me when I lose a player," stressed Brown. "I hope kids stick it out. My toughest job is figuring out ways not to let that happen to my kids."

To that end, Brown says, "I lettered nine kids last year. I try to get as many kids into a match as I can, that way they don't leave the sport. I can't promote the game of tennis without players."

On Brown's main objective for the remainder of the season, "Over the last few years we've done a good job of playing our best tennis at the conclusion of the season," he said. "That goal hasn't changed. Instead of just playing out the string like some people do, we're building momentum toward states.

"States is a different level of tennis," added Brown. "It's one that we've struggled at mostly because it's hard to replicate playing those types of teams during the regular season."

By the numbers: NCT's Tom Brown

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2006 6 9 .400

2007#$ 11 2 .846

2008$ 12 3 .800

2009*#$ 15 2 .882

2010*# 13 4 .765

2011*#$ 16 1 .941

2012%$ 10 6 .625

2013*% 12 5 .706

2014 6 1 .857

-9- 101 33 .754

* Denotes Hernando County champions.

# Denotes district champions.

% Denotes district runners-up.

^ Denotes regional champions.

$ Denotes state qualifiers.

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