The dean of America East basketball coaches, Tom Brennan, will begin his 18th season at the helm of the Catamount program in 2003-04. His 17-year tenure is the second longest as a Vermont head coach and the longest of any America East mentor in the league's 24-year history. He is second all-time in coaching victories at UVM with 217 and last season he reached several milestones. He recorded his 250th career win at Marist on November 23rd and picked up his 200th win at Vermont vs. St. Michael's on December 22nd. Against Northeastern on January 8th, he also became Vermont's all-time leader in games coached and the 2002-2003 regular season finale with Albany on March 2nd, was the 600th game of his career.
The past two seasons for Brennan have been a pair for the record books. Last year in recording a program-record 21 wins for the second straight season, the Catamounts captivated the state of Vermont and New England with UVM's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. In the school's second appearance in the conference title game -both under Brennan- Vermont won the America East title, and a trip to 'The Big Dance' with a heart-stopping 56-55 win over top-seeded Boston University in Boston. That day as conference champions, Vermont received the Denis Lambert Trophy which is named in honor of the former UVM Director of Athletics. On the trip home from Boston, Brennan brought the trophy to Lambert's home in Stowe, Vt. so that the man that hired him at UVM, would be the first person in the Green Mountain State to see it.
In 2001-02, he led the Catamounts to the school's first-ever conference regular season title while they broke the program record for wins that had stood for 55 years. One of the most improved teams in the nation that year, he guided the Catamounts from seventh place and a 12-17 record in 2000-01, which included an 11-game losing streak, to a 21-8 mark and a first place finish in the America East. UVM's 13 conference wins was another program mark and also in 2001-02, Vermont won 12 straight games to set a new school record for consecutive victories, the program's longest winning streak since 1924.
For his efforts, Brennan was named America East Coach of the Year, NABC District I Coach of the Year and New England Coach of the Year by his peers in the region. Also, Brennan and the Catamounts 21-win season was recognized by CollegeInsider.com as the Nation�s Top College Basketball Achievement for 2001-2002.
One of two America East coaches to be selected coach of the year more than twice, he previously earned the honor in 1992 and 1998. In addition he also was named NABC District I Coach of the Year in 1992 and in 2000, he received the Doggie Julian Award for distinguished service in New England College Basketball.
The last two historic seasons have capped a complete turnaround of the Vermont program as Brennan, in resurrecting a moribund program, won just 14 times in his first three seasons while in his last three, his Catamounts have won 54 times. In between, UVM has won 10 or more games in a season a school-record 14 seasons. In 88 seasons of basketball at the school, Vermont has now won 16 or more games ten times -- with five of the teams coached by Brennan.
Throughout his career, Brennan has developed a keen sense on what is important in intercollegiate athletics. He recruits quality students and quality people who can also play basketball. He helps instill in his student-athletes a work ethic, an appreciation and a sense of family that stays with them for life. Nearly all of his four-year players have earned their degree at Vermont but more important, they are also respected members of the community. Brennan's Cats also excel in the classroom as in each of the past two seasons, the Catamounts have had the best GPA (3.00 in 2001-02; 3.01 in 2002-03). In 2003, Vermont's Grant Anderson '03 became the first Catamount to be selected the America East Scholar-Athlete for men's hoop.
Brennan has recruited and coached some of the greats in Catamount hoops history. Four of his players, Matt Johnson '91, Kevin Roberson '92, T.J. Sorrentine '05 and Taylor Coppenrath '05 have been named conference player of the year and a fifth, UVM's all-time leading scorer Eddie Benton '96, was the winner of the national Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award. Also, Benton, Tony Orciari '01, Sorrentine and Coppenrath have also won the league's Rookie of the Year award. In 1998, Roberson and Benton were honored by the conference as members of the America East 20-Year All-Star team. Also, Brennan has coached 13 of the 25 members of the Vermont 1000-point club with Sorrentine just 26 points shy of the mark.
Under Brennan, interest and exposure for the program has greatly increased and home attendance is at a new high. With the run to the NCAA's, there was more national and regional media attention given to Brennan and Vermont men's basketball then to any other previous athletic team at the university. More important, the program has reached a greater level of interest at the school, the community and in the state.
The past two seasons they have led the America East in home attendance and there should be increased demand for tickets in the upcoming season. In 2001-2002, attendance at Patrick Gym increased 89% over the previous season. The four sellouts that season were the first at Patrick since 1992.
Always a tough place to play for opponents in Brennan's tenure, the Patrick Gym was voted the "toughest place for opponents to play" in the America East in 1998 and 2000. In 2002, UVM went 10-1 at home including a perfect 8-0 against league foes while last season they went 11-1 at Patrick. Overlapping the two seasons, the Catamounts set a new program record with 16 consecutive home court wins.
In the 18 years in the state he now calls home, Brennan has never lost a Vermont native via scholarship to another Division I school. Highlighting the Vermonters who have made an impact at UVM are Johnson of St. Albans, Orciari of St. Johnsbury, Bill Bright '91 of South Burlington, 1000-point scorers Brian Tarrant '93 and Bernie Cieplicki '96 of Burlington (Cieplicki attended Fairfield for one season before transferring to Vermont), as well as former captains Rich Tarrant '91 (Burlington), Scott Reed '95 (Fair Haven) and Charles McDonough '95 (Rutland). Senior Matt Sheftic of Essex Junction and Coppenrath (West Barnet) continue this trend and Brennan.
The 54-year old Brennan is a native of Phillipsburg, NJ who graduated as the all-time leading scorer at Phillipsburg Catholic High School. His youngest sister, Noreen Pecsok, begins her fourth season as the head women's basketball coach at nearby Middlebury College after holding the same position at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.
Brennan moved on to the University of Georgia, playing for the Bulldogs in the S.E.C. against all-time greats such as Pete Maravich and Johnny Neumann. He graduated from Georgia in 1971 and as a senior he received the team's leadership award. He began his coaching career right in the fall of 1971 as a graduate assistant at Georgia under Ken Rosemond. Sandwiched around a year as head basketball and baseball coach at Division III Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. in Madison, NJ, Brennan has been an assistant coach under college basketball legends Rollie Massimino at Villanova, Bill Raftery at Seton Hall and Bruce Parkhill at William and Mary. In 1982 he was named head coach at Yale University where he crafted a four -year record of 46-58, including back-to-back seasons of 14-12 and 13-13. At Yale he coached Bulldog greats such as Butch Graves and NBA veteran Chris Dudley.
Now in his 22nd year as a Division I head coach, several of Brennan's assistants are now collegiate head coaches themselves. Among the Brennan proteges are former Catamount assistants Jeff Brown, Middlebury College; Keith Cieplicki, formerly with the UVM women and now at Syracuse; and Tom O'Shea, St. Michael's College. In addition, former Yale assistants Larry Mangino, Ferrum (Va.) College and Mike Mucci, Haverford (Pa.) College have been head coaches. In 1997 in playing St. Michael's, Brennan in facing O 'Shea (Vermont '87) took on for the first time an opposing head coach who was a former assistant and also faced a former player for the first time.
One of the more popular public speakers in the State of Vermont, Brennan has spoken at many charity events, business seminars, youth sports functions and high school graduations. Also, he is a colorful, humorous morning drive-time radio personality (the 'Corm and the Coach' show on Champ 101.3 FM) who in 1996 and 2000 received the Vermont Associated Press award for the state's top radio sports feature. This past spring he also was a co-host on several ESPN national radio shows.
Named in April of 1986 as the 14th basketball coach in Vermont history, Brennan is just the fifth Catamount men's head coach since 1940. He and his wife, Lynn reside on Lake Champlain in Colchester. Brennan has two children: Kelly, who graduated from UVM in 1993 and is married to Brady Frost, a former Catamount standout pitcher; and Brian who was a standout guard at Indiana (Pa.) University, which reached the NCAA D-II Elite Eight in 2000. In the winter of 2002-2003, Brennan became a grandfather and now has two grandsons Brennan and Caleb.