The 2020-21 edition of the Paris Eagles boys senior high basketball team will be loaded with newcomers. Featuring a young sophomore class of players that finished runner-up in the junior district tournament this year, the Eagles will also be led by first year Paris coach Blain Brewington.
For all of you basketball fans out there, Coach Brewington may remind you of a University of Arkansas basketball student manager, and graduate assistant coach, Doc Sadler, that went on to coach at several schools collegiately, including his last stint as head coach at Southern Mississippi and currently at the University of Nebraska as an assistant coach. Similar to the career path of Sadler, Blain Brewington was a student manager for the Razorbacks mens basketball program and later became a graduate assistant coach under then head coach Mike Anderson. Brewington can be thought of as a product of the Mike Anderson coaching tree that was began by Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson, and before that the legendary Don Haskins at the University of Texas at El Paso. Nolan Richardson played for Haskins and began his coaching career from the influence of his days at UTEP. Mike Anderson played for Richardson at the University of Tulsa, and later was an assistant coach under Richardson at Arkansas. It may be a stretch to connect Blain at this point in his coaching career to three legendary college coaches, but Eagles fans have to admit that the hire of Blain Brewington to come to Class 3A Paris is exciting and will be filled with anticipation for the upcoming 2020-21 basketball season.
But Coach Brewington’s basketball coaching career has been much more than his two years as a graduate assistant for the Razorbacks. Brewington has coached two years as a junior high coach and senior high assistant at Class 4A Lonoke. After leaving Lonoke for Class 5A Nettleton in Jonesboro, Brewington served as an assistant coach there for three years. Add them up, and Brewington has five years of high school assistant experience and two years of collegiate grad assistant experience. He has a definite idea on how to build a program and how to run camps and summer programs to develop athletes into basketball players. His hire comes at a great time when the Paris senior boys program will be infused with young talent that has been successful in junior high and shows great promise for varsity basketball. It will be a fresh start for the Paris program, and the timing of talent and new coaching leadership has converged at the right time to create virtually unlimited potential for the Eagles over the next few years. Who knows how far this program can go at the state level over the next three years? Time will tell.
In a telephone interview with the new Paris coach, I asked Blain why he is leaving Jonesboro to move across the state to Paris. I wanted to know what attracted him to the Paris community and to the Eagles basketball program. I liked his answer, and I think Paris Eagles fans will like what they hear from their new coach. Coach Brewington, barely being able to contain his enthusiasm, said, “I’m excited and ready to get rolling, whenever that might be; hopefully sooner than later. I did a lot of research on Paris and a lot of people just talked about the community and how tight-knit the community is. They talked about how much the community supported the school and the teams. I talked to a lot of coaches in that area and they told me that Paris has great talent, great athletes, that they are able to compete, and I think that is just icing on top of the cake when you talk about how great of a community that it is and then you can be successful on the athletics end, too. Paris reminds me a lot of Pocahontas where I am from; small community, loves their school, sports, tough kids, kids that want to win, and a community that is going to support you in getting kids to work as hard as they possibly can that will hopefully translate into wins.”
Coach Brewington is excited about the talent level and the youth on the team. “I think young talent is good, but also will develop some leadership from a senior or a junior. I don’t care how good a sophomore group is, you count on a senior to help the young guys move along. There are some young guys that are going to be thrown into the fire quickly. It will be our jobs as coaches to make sure they are as prepared as possible but know that they are going to make mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes, our seniors are going to make mistakes, and those young guys are going to make mistakes. I want to see them making mistakes going at 100% and doing it the way we want it done. Those mistakes will fix themselves. But I am very excited about the talent in Paris, including the junior and senior class, as well. Talent by itself is not enough. But when you get kids that play hard, act right, and do the things we’re telling them what we are going to be about, that’s when the wins started falling in place. These guys, and myself, we have to learn to win first; we have to start from square one and learn to win first. When we do, the wins will build from there.”
Coach Brewington is grateful for the opportunity to be the Paris head boys basketball coach, but he is all about his players. “I like recognition, but it is definitely not about me. It’s about those kids, putting that Paris uniform on, and putting them in positions to win games. That is what I am about, putting kids in position to win. All credit will go to the players. I am very thankful for the opportunity and I am glad there is some buzz (anticipation to the new basketball season along with Coach Brewington’s hire) around Paris. I am excited and I think that once that we can get in and get to work and implement what we want to do, I think there is a chance for wins to be there. The great thing that I heard from my interview was how good the kids are. That makes things so much better when your kids play hard and when they act right, that cures so many problems and makes it so much more enjoyable.”
Coach Brewington is a team player with other programs within the school. Although he has coached in Class 5A and 4A, he knows and respects that in Class 3A sports, a limited number of talented athletes exist and schools need their athletes to play two and three sports. Schools of the size of Paris, along with other 3A schools, are not large enough to have dedicated groups of players in each sport as do the 7A and 6A schools. Coach Brewington said, “All hands are on deck with respect to athletics. We need all of our athletes to play everything to be as competitive as we can. I’m not that guy that is going to come in and make it hard on a kid that is playing football only or a kid that plays basketball and wants to play football. First of all, that is not my job as a coach. My job as a coach is to be there for our kids and support them in whatever they may want to do. I am all for our kids’ success whether it is football, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, whatever it may be, I want kids to be successful. At the end of the day, that reflects positively on Paris High School.”
On the court, Coach Brewington’s philosophy was molded by former Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson. But in high school, Brewington has taken it a step farther to emphasize control and half-court offense and multiple sets if the transition basket is not there on the the fast break. “Offensively, l like to get the ball out in transition. I think transition creates a lot of easy buckets, but I also know that if you can’t score on the transition you have to be able to score it in some type of half-court continuity offense in which you run a lot of sets. To be successful, you have to be able to play multiple ways. Defensively, I am a firm believer in man-to-man defense. I played man-to-man from the time I was in fourth grade until I graduated from high school. I can probably count on one hand the possessions of zone defense I have played. I’ve changed some since I have coached; I do think there is a time and place for zone, but, defensively, I love a hard-nosed, tough, man-to-man defense, keeping the ball in front, taking charges, being a very good defensive rebounding team. I do like to press. I was with Mike Anderson at Arkansas, and I love to press. But I do know at the high school level you can’t press the whole game. You have to be able to play multiple defenses; playing man defense multiple ways. Keeping the ball in front, having good help side defense, and take those charges and get those rebounds, but, I say my defensive philosophy is: 1) keep the basketball in front, 2)contest every shot, and 3) rebound the basketball defensively at a very high rate. We do not want to allow offensive rebounds.”
Under normal circumstances, Coach Brewington, as with all new coaching hires, would be in town today to meet his players and begin introducing his goals and expectations for the program. But as we all know, today’s world is anything but normal, and Coach Brewington, as all other new coaches, will have to adjust to school being closed and athletes not being available for contact in person due to the Arkansas Activities Association’s dead period that is in effect until May 30. “Unfortunately, due to the AAA’s dead period, seeing the kids face-to-face is not going to happen until the dead period is lifted. I am an old-fashioned guy and I like to make voice contact on the telephone, and I think that it is important to get the kids telephone numbers and make contact with them, maybe try to do some type of a zoom (online meeting) session with them, but just being up front with them and talking to them on the phone is something I am going to do. I just hope this ends (COVID-19 dead period) sooner rather than later, and just continue to hope and pray that things will progress so we can do the things we need to do to get back on track. Under normal circumstances, I would be in Paris today. Once we get rolling, we will get rolling!”
A key part to building the Paris program will be Coach Brewington’s involvement of the parents and the community of Paris. “I want all of those fourth grade kids through sixth grade, definitely the Pee Wee kids, to know who their coach is going to be when they get to the seventh grade. I want to be able to talk to our Pee Wee coaches and hopefully kind of implement some things of how we play and implement those things from a young age. That way we are building the kids year-by-year. I want to be seen by going to Pee Wee games and let those kids know that I do care and that they know who I am and that I am going to coach them when they are older. I think parental involvement is great and I want parents to be there and be supportive. I want them to fill the stands. I want them to cheer loud, and I think that creates a competitive advantage. Even on the road, a good crowd of mostly parents can make a difference when they are there to support our kids. I want the parents to know that the child’s success is first and foremost and we are going to put them in the position we think is best for them to be successful. I think it is a testament to our parents for the good things I have heard about the players. It is a testament to the faculty, the administrators, and the coaches for the good they have in the program, as well.”
As the lost spring semester moves on, summer camps and club sports could prove to be vital to the next year, if those activities are permitted to be held. Coach Brewington is a strong proponent of summer camps and travel teams for his players, and is well-connected in the state to place players on club teams for the summer. “I’m well-connected in that just from my time at the University of Arkansas and at Lonoke where I was connected to Central Arkansas. I know a lot of people in the River Valley who play summer ball. At Nettleton we had quite a few kids who played summer ball, so I am connected in that and if our kids want to play I can get them hooked up to a good team. That helps them and I definitely love when our kids play for another coach. I think it is important for them to hear another voice other than mine. I also love to go to team camps and have summer practice. I don’t know how that will happen with everything right now, but we will adjust. Summer is the most important time in basketball.”
After my conversation with Coach Brewington, I found myself wanting the new season to start tonight! He will definitely be a motivator and I think each player will enjoy playing for him. Coach Brewington knows what he wants to do to build the program, and he will work hard to gain the trust and confidence of the the players and everyone connected to Paris basketball. He will be a great addition to the Paris athletic department. I extend my congratulations to the administration and the board for what appears to be a home run hire.
I know all of you join me in wishing Coach Brewington the best of success as the newest member of the Paris Eagles family.