Former players reflect on Brooks’ tenure with the Spartans

The St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ basketball team had one goal in 2013.

Reach the state tournament, something the program had never done before in school history.

Some coaches would have encouraged their team to have a more reasonable goal, but not Brian Brooks.

He knew if his team put their minds to it, they could achieve whatever they wanted to.

Louis Acklin, a senior forward on the 2013 team, said his favorite memory of his coach was from the Spartans’ Class 2A super-sectional win against Riverton.

“There was less than a minute left and the game was in hand, and he subbed me out of the game,” Acklin said. “I just remember coming out and giving him a big hug, knowing that all the hard work that we had put in to get ourselves to that position had paid off. I’ll never forget that moment and that feeling knowing that we had accomplished a big goal of ours together.”

Brooks would have another team compete at state in 2016, with this time, SJO winning the school’s first-ever state title in the sport after SJO placed fourth in 2013.

Eli Oltean, who was a senior on the 2016 team, said that the season had a lot of ups and downs but Brooks gave the team the belief that nobody was good enough to beat them.

“ I can remember when coach asked us our goal at the beginning of the season and when it came down to us having a goal to be a state champion,” Oltean said, “coach Brooks took that and held us to that expectation through every game, practice and walkthrough.”

Oltean said the fact that Brooks held the team to that standard motivated them and made them realize it was an attainable goal.

Connor Janes was a senior during the 2014-15 season and said his favorite memory of Brooks was during the sectional semifinal game against Monticello.

“I knew I wasn’t a great scorer, but I did the little things like screen, rebound and guard,” Janes said. “I wanted to come out really bad that game because I was exhausted, but he shook his head and told me to keep pushing and fight.”

Janes said he only sat down briefly during the entire game.

“It’s helped me down the road,” Janes said.

Janes said Brooks was more than a coach to all the players.

“He was a teacher, a father figure, mentor and a huge motivator to kids on and off the court,” he said.

Acklin agreed with Janes’ assessment of their former coach.

“As a player, you knew that you could go to him with anything at all, whether that be basketball, school or life related,” Acklin said. “Players knew that he would do anything for them and, thus, players would do anything for him. Having those relationships meant that he could be hard on us whenever we weren’t performing to the best of our abilities, but we knew no matter what was happening on the court that he still deeply cared about us as people.”

Acklin said the relationships Brooks built with his players made it easy for the players to play hard for him every day.

“I think that’s a huge part of what has made him so successful as a coach,” he said.  “SJO will miss him as a basketball coach, but they are still lucky to have him as their superintendent. He has left the basketball program in such good standing that it will continue to be successful moving forward with a new coach.”

Chase Patton, who, like Acklin, was a senior on the 2013 team, said Brooks has always been a mentor for him.

“What made him so successful was his passion for not only the game of basketball, but for his compassion for his players and coaching staff,” Patton said. “Coach Brooks will forever be a legend at SJO.”

Jake Pence, a senior on the 2016 team, reiterated what Acklin said.

Pence’s favorite memory of Brooks didn’t happen on the court but actually took place in the superintendent’s office the day after the team suffered a loss.

“I got called out of my strength training class to the superintendent’s office,” he said.  “I wasn’t going to speak with the superintendent or my basketball coach, just Mr. Brooks, the man.”

Pence said the two talked about college plans, girl problems and growing up with a superintendent as a father.

“He knew I wasn’t the emotional, talkative type but he knew I needed to talk these things out and he was right,” Pence said. “He genuinely cared about me and all of his players and wanted the best for us. “

Pence said the talk helped his mood and he went to practice after school. The team started stretching, but Brooks pulled Pence and Brandon Trimble away from the team and started jogging towards the locker room. Brooks detoured into the PE locker room and into the coach’s office.

The two players followed him and Brooks shut the door behind them.

“He said,  “We aren’t going to win state unless you two take us there. Now figure out what we have to do and don’t come out until you’re done,’”

Pence said. “He then walked out and shut the door behind him and left to start practice. Brandon and I sat there and talked, then we went back out to practice about 20 minutes later. He never asked us what we talked about and we never spoke about it again, not even after we figured it out and won the state championship.”

Brady DePratt, who played on the 2013 team, said Brooks was never one to take the glory of wins, instead wanting the focus to be on the players.

“For his success, to me it was always in one quote he’d repeat to us, ‘I’ll give you guys all the credit for every win and take all the blame for every loss,’” DePratt said.  “He took the pressure off us so we could just play. And I truly believe he wanted to win more for his players than for himself.”

Oltean said that Brooks’ desire for his players to succeed always stood out to him.

“As a player is one of the most encouraging feelings in sports, is when your coach believes that you can succeed,” he said. “Coach Brooks will always be a role model to me for how much he taught me to be a leader and believe in people.”

Rylan Housenga, who was a senior during the 2014-2015 season, said his favorite memory of Brooks happened at his graduation.

“I shook his hand as I walked off the stage at graduation,” he said. “It was a moment we shared that I was able to thank him for preparing me so well for wherever my life took me next.”

Housenga said he was always impressed with how Brooks could fit players into the best roles for them to create a successful team.

“If players just stuck to his process then good things always happened and that says a lot about how good of a coach he was,” he said.

Housenga said he believes Brooks was a good coach because he genuinely cared about anything he was involved with.

“Outside of basketball, he was a mentor to all of us at SJO,”  Housenga  said. “He knew that our futures were the bigger picture and  went out of

his way to ensure we were going down the right path, and that’s why I’m ultimately thankful I got to play under coach Brooks.”

Garrett Grimsley, a senior on the 2016 state title team, said he thinks Brooks was successful because of how his teams executed on defense.

“He got his teams to play hard and take pride on that end of the floor,” Grimsley said.

Players from Brooks’ last team at SJO said they will remember the culture of excellence that Brooks created around the basketball program.

“I think what makes Coach Brooks the most successful is the way he runs the program and our practices,” SJO junior Joel Orcutt said.  

“He will stop in the middle of a drill and do everything in his power to help someone who doesn’t understand or to explain something.”

SJO senior Bryce Haake said Brooks knew what it took to be successful at a high level.

“He understood it wasn’t easy to be above average and he instilled that in his players,” Haake said. “And not only did he teach us that about basketball, but life, too. He created a culture here of excellence and it has only grown and continues to grow.”

Haake, who has been coached by Brooks since third grade, said on senior night this past season he really realized how lucky he was to have Brooks as a coach.

“Senior night really made me realize what a great coach he is and how much he has taught me both about basketball and life,” Haake said.

SJO senior Jordan Brooks, Brian’s son, said his dad is a successful coach because he truly cares for each and every player and has a true love for the game of basketball.

“Every single player trusts him and what he’s doing and that’s why all of his teams have been successful,” Jordan said. “He makes the basketball

team feel like a second family for everyone.”

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