Burke coach gets job back

Longtime Burke basketball coach Earl Brown has an intense halftime talk during last year’s Class A Boys Lower State final at McAlister Fieldhouse. Burke went on to win that game, reaching the state final before losing to Great Falls.

Earl Brown can continue his quest for 700 career victories and an elusive state championship now that he has been reinstated as the boys basketball coach at Burke High School.

He also gets to do what many people feel he does best: be a role model and mentor to young black men, providing discipline and advice.

Many people were outraged by Brown's dismissal as coach last week. Burke hasn't won a state title since 1984, but Brown guided the Bulldogs to a 100-15 record and three appearances in the state championship game in the past four years.

State Sen. Robert Ford was a main force in the push to have the school district reinstate Brown. Ford said it was about more than X's and O's and wins and losses.

"For those people who were interested in Earl Brown winning more than 700 games, more power to them," Ford said. "But what we are more interested in is what he has to offer as a role model. Burke has a new principal, new guidance counselors and some young new teachers. What they need is someone who can instill discipline. New personnel will have a hard time doing that.

"You need a familiar face. You already have a failing school, but it has made progress. But I think they were taking a step backward. They need a strong black man who provides discipline and is a role model. That's Earl Brown."

Brown said he will coach one more year, and many of the players who were on last winter's team are back. Coaching, chemistry and talent will determine if the Bulldogs win a championship.

"It's great to be back," said Brown, the dean of Charleston County coaches with 42 years' experience and 694 career victories. "I am going to coach basketball, help with the football team and other things like that. The main thing is I get to work with kids. That's what matters most. I get to work with kids in an official capacity."

Brown met with Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley Tuesday morning, and with members of the district board later in the day. An agreement was reached for him to coach one more season.

Brown's return marks a week of twists and turns.

The school's athletic director, Carlton Rice, told Brown on July 13 that he was being replaced. On Monday the district admitted that it was having second thoughts on the decision to dismiss Brown, who has been at Burke since 1982.

"We are very pleased to know that Coach Brown -- a strong mentor with long-standing ties to the Burke community -- will be with us this year," Burke Principal Maurice Cannon said in a statement released by the district. "As a coach and mentor, he is an asset on and off the court."

Brown, who was certified to teach driver's ed and physical education, will be a full-time "itinerant" teacher and coach from November through March, according to a district news release.

Brown was retired but was allowed to teach because of the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive program. With TERI, teachers can retire, draw their pension and continue to work, making a salary for five years.

During the 2010-11 academic year, he taught three driver's education classes in addition to coaching. But he was out of a job when the district, facing approximately a $28 million deficit, did away with the driver's ed program.

Brown said he was pleased with his meeting with McGinley, who was out of town last week when Brown was let go.

"Basically, she hoped that everything was to my satisfaction," said Brown, who turns 65 in April and is the third-winningest basketball coach in state history with the 694 victories. "She told me if I needed anything I just needed to holler."

Ford and Rep. Wendell Gilliard planned to lead a protest against Brown's dismissal at 6 tonight at the Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Ford said the event will now be an appreciation and celebration of Earl Brown the coach, mentor and person.

Anthony Meggett graduated from Burke in 1984, two years after Brown arrived on campus. He remembers Brown well. Today, he is a master sergeant in the Air Force and is stationed in Europe. He will retire in October after 25 years of service.

He read about Brown's dismissal online and couldn't believe it.

"If it was not for coach Brown, I would not have had a wonderful 24 years of service to my country," Meggett said in an e-mail to The Post and Courier. "When I thought I would ... be a failure in life, he was there pushing me to strive to be the best. He was there keeping me in line. ... He has a heart and cares about all of his players and student he has be involved with."

Reach Philip M. Bowman at 937-5592. Follow him on Twitter at @pandcphil.