Brandon Brown has been named the new head football coach and athletic director at East St. John, both Brown and St. John Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George confirmed to RiverParishFootball.com on Wednesday.
Brown, an ESJ alumnus, was one of 14 applicants for the position. East St. John was seeking a new coach and athletic director following the dismissal of Alden Foster earlier this year after serving three years with the Wildcats.
“It’s a humbling experience. Honestly, East St. John is a dream job for myself, being a graduate there. Having the opportunity to go off and experience other things, you have that feel that there is no place like home,” Brown said.
Brown was one of four finalists for the position. Others included former John Ehret coach Corey Lambert and former Arena Football League great Damon Mason, a River Parish native. Gregory Gathers, another former East St. John alumnus who went on to play at Georgia Tech and has been an assistant coach at East Ascension, was the other finalist.
“What was clear to us is that Coach Brown checked all the boxes for us. As we say, at the end, ‘you can’t go wrong with a Wildcat,’” George said of the decision to hire Brown.
Being an alumnus of East St. John played a role in the selection of Brown, according to George.
“We talk all the time to our kids about graduating and coming back and being able to help us to help grow the community. When he came in – somebody who actually fit (that criteria) and has an impressive resume and is from this community and graduated from East St. John – what better hands could we put our football program into? Absolutely, it had something to do with it when he was selected but we will put up his resume against anybody,” said George.
The key to putting East St. John on par on the football field with fellow River Parish Class 5A programs Destrehan and Hahnville, Brown said, is to reset the culture.
“The culture of East St. John has been a winning culture, however, in the last couple of years it’s been up and down. I think Coach Foster went in and did some things to change it and we just have to go in, rebuild and put our own stamp on the program. We need to bring back that Wildcat pride,” Brown said.
Brown is fresh off of leading St. Helena College and Career Academy to a Class 2A state final appearance where the Hawks lost to Welsh 38-26.
He has posted a five-year record of 36-25 at St. Helena with his Hawks improving their record in each of the years he has been at the helm.
Taking over a program that had a total of four wins in the three seasons prior to his arrival, Brown’s first squad at St. Helena posted a 2-9 mark in 2013.
His 2014 Hawks went 3-8 and St. Helena improved to 8-3 the following season.
St. Helena went 11-2 in 2016, losing to Madison Prep 31-6 in the semifinals.
After graduating from East St. John, Brown went on to play football at Alcorn State.
Following college, he spent seven years as defensive coordinator at Columbus High in Columbus, Miss.
Brown said he will evaluate where the East St. John program currently stands before making any decisions about moving forward.
“The best thing, since it is so late in the ball game, is to maybe forfeit our spring (practices) to get that additional week in the fall,” Brown said. “That’s the great thing about the state of Louisiana, with the high school athletic association, there is a rule now that you can say, ‘hey, I’m not going to do spring but I will get an additional week in the fall.’
“We will go in and assess some things – talk with the coaches and players and see what’s the best thing for East St. John. What I don’t want to do is make a hasty decision and I want to be fair to the players and the coaches already there.”
Regardless of spring practice or not, the new coach and athletic director said he wants to establish a standard at his alma mater.
“I’m big about culture. I’m big about setting standards. I think at this point, for the next couple of weeks until school is out, I need to go in and set that standard – let them know what I’m about and what are my expectations for that program.”