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Exclusive Interview: Angelo Brown Brings The Illinois Elite Heat

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Coach Brown standing tall

Story by Tony Jones/images by D. Pierre

Behind every successful athlete is someone that is a mentor, coach, counselor, or role model.  In superstar Aaliyah Brown’s case, the Supreme force in her life happens to be her father Angelo Brown.  The aforementioned adjectives seem to fit the senior Brown like a glove.  In addition, the many young lives that he has molded throughout the years have no trouble in expressing their heart felt feelings toward him.

Coach Brown runs the Illinois Elite youth track club during the off-season.  It is more like an organization that has gained national prominence over the past decade and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  During the high school season, though, Coach Brown is an assistant coach for his daughter’s Lincoln-Way East squad located in south suburbs of Chicago called Frankfort.  How many coaches start with the monikers: “my personality rubs off on my athletes; you are either going to love me or hate me.  I’m not mad at the world, I’m just dialed in.”

IL Prepster: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where did you grow up?

Angelo Brown: I grew up on the Southside of Chicago with my mom and two of my siblings until the age of 10.  Then I moved with my dad, a Chicago police officer, on the Northside of Chicago until I graduated from Gordon Tech High School.  I was a two-sport athlete participating in track and football.

IP: Can you tell us a little bit about your coaching background? When did you get started- certifications, years of experience, etc…

AB: As a kid, I stayed actively involved in sports and have always had a passion for it.  As an adult the passion continued and I desired to still be closely involved in some capacity.  I have been coaching now for about 13 years.  I began my coaching career in 2000 with my daughter Aaliyah’s little league baseball and soccer teams.  It was her speed on the soccer field that led us to the track.  In 2001, we joined the Aurora Flyers Track Club where I was an assistant coach [under Tom Boatright].  My passion for coaching continued to grow and in 2005, I founded my current track club, Illinois Elite.  In 2009, I became the sprint coach at Aaliyah’s high school.  I have earned a coaching certification from the American Sport Education Program as well as a USATF Level II coaching certification.

IP: What makes Angelo Brown tick? What excites you?

AB: Coaching.  I enjoy it so much because it’s where I’m in my element.  I love to see the light bulb turn on with my athletes.  Don’t get me wrong I love to spend time with my family too.  My wife and I like to go to the movies or out to eat for quality time.

IP: We understand that you have a very respectable day profession. Do you mind explaining?

AB: I have been a Firefighter/Paramedic for the Village of Matteson for a little over ten years.  When I am not coaching and developing young adults, I find that being a Firefighter/Paramedic is very rewarding and fulfilling as well.  I enjoy helping others on and off the track.

IP: You have been open about your athlete’s lofty goals. On numerous occasions you have predicted BIG times but came up short.  This year you have said your quartet will crush the IHSA 4×100 relay all-time best of 46.23.  Do you really believe this is possible?

AB: ABSOLUTELY!  I believe in setting high goals, yet attainable goals.  Coaches have to see their athlete’s highest potential and strive and train to execute it.  I am a very aggressive coach and don’t mind putting the expectation out there.  Just call me the “Joe Namath” of track and field.  Records are all about being broken.  This gives the track fans something to look forward to and the critics as well for that matter.  But, we can handle it.  It’s all about competition.  We ran 46.97 back in 2010.  If this current quartet stays healthy, they can definitely break the IHSA 4×100 all-time best of 46.23.  And if I have it my way, that won’t be the only record broken.  It’s time for Illinois to get their due justice in the world of track and field.

IP: The haters have quietly begun to respect your Illinois Elite Track Club.  How are you able to deal with the real and the fake ones out there?

AB: I am very good judge of character.  The haters don’t know me.  However, those that do know me respect me.  As long as the haters keep my name in their mouth I know that I’m doing well.  I hear the stories out there.  I heard that people have accused me of all sorts of things, but when you attack my personal character or the character of my athletes I will address the issue (s) directly.  I help kids get scholarships- look at the list!

IP: You appear to have a solid relationship with Lincoln-Way East Head Coach Caroline Gerritsen. What is your relationship like with her?

AB: Initially, I had some perceptions about her, but I wanted to meet her.  I took Aaliyah to meet her back in the 7th grade (?) and we hit it off very well.  I am there to be a coach for the whole team.  Coach Cunningham [maiden name] is the head coach and I respect that. She is very organized and she is a good coach.  We have a very good working relationship.

IP: What specific goals do you have for your daughters Aaliyah and Asia this season?

AB: Asia, who is a freshman, is a different type of athlete.  I want to set her up confidence-wise where she has to find herself academically and athletically.  She will be mainly relay focused this year and hopefully will have the opportunity to pass the relay stick to her big sister in the state championship.  She will be a key component for our team.
Aaliyah’s goals are to break the state records in the 100 and 200.  But keep in mind that she is not a clock runner but more of a winner. She is capable of running 11.2 but it will depend on the competition.

photoIP: It is plausible that you know of the criticism thrown your way in the handling of Aaliyah’s high school career.  She has endured several big injuries that may have prevented her from becoming the state’s all-time best sprinter.  What are your feelings on this?

AB: People don’t have a clue; they don’t realize that she is a nationally known athlete who has to compete in the biggest meets.  In terms of her races, she only did the two club indoor meets (early January) and the next one is the Brooks meet on February 23.  We have a select schedule for Liyah that will include the Arcadia Invite, Texas Relays, and the Penn Relays.  The rest of the team will have opportunities to compete in some good meets around the state.  In regard to Liyah’s injury, she’s only had one major injury- her hamstring pull during that trip to Puerto Rico [in June 2011].  That’s not my fault!  I pulled the plug on her post-season and we began the slow road to recovery.  Don’t forget that I have to be there to pick up the emotional pieces at practice and at home because I am her dad.  It takes about a year to get back to 100% from an injury like that.  Still, we were able to produce an 11.44 despite the emotional and physical wear and tear.

IP: So are you saying that you are the best sprint coach in the state?

AB: Yes I do.  That crown has been passed to me. [Derrick] Calhoun (Morgan Park girls coach) had it.  Now they call me if they want results!  If you train with me you will get results! I will perfect your craft.  Of course, you have to have some talent.

IP: There are still are great coaches out there doing amazing things like Boatright.  So how can you make that assertion of being the best coach out there?

AB: Boatright is a great coach but things change.  It’s a new era.  I’m the new and improved.  I changed the game here in Illinois and I’m bringing the HEAT.  You either step it up or you get stepped on.  We have some of the best athletes here and it’s going to last for a while.

IP: What specifically gives you the right to that claim?

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Brown and the Mrs. Brown

AB: I know that we are paper champions [for now].  We are going to have to step on the track and prove ourselves against the competition. We work hard in practice.  For example, we have practice at 5:15am four or five days a week.  Then we are in the weight room after school. Our participation has been 100%. It’s a whole team thing- LWE is a team. We don’t need to speak.  I do know that we going to have the gun and you got the knife. You got the wrong weapon.  We are going to live and win championships.

IP: How do you anticipate life once Aaliyah goes off to college next year?

AB: I think I will be a big baby once she walks across that stage upon graduation.  It will be tears of joy because of what her [natural] mother would have loved to see.  But it will also be joy for her step-mother and the entire family.  It’s about Liyah because she has worked extremely hard in the classroom and on the track.  But I will be ready for the next crop of track stars.

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22 comments on “Exclusive Interview: Angelo Brown Brings The Illinois Elite Heat

  1. Straight…No Chaser!

  2. If you didn’t know…. Now you do!!!

  3. Excellent article Tony. All that is true, I haven’t met anyone else that has the passion for track other than myself and my role model Mr. Walters. Angelo has done wonderful with his team and put IL on the map. I’ll never forget years ago when you first started The Elite, you said that, and you achieved it congratulations. Keep up the good work.
    TJ

  4. Thanks. I must say I was a little worried initially but what transpired over the course of a few days of working w/Angelo was his passion of the sport and honesty. He says what other people are thinking but are scared to say. I think that is the message he was trying to convey.

  5. Really good article…I don’t have a high schooler running track but I can’t wait for the state finals, It’s going to be hot!!! #illinoistrackfan

  6. Dude ok… other than his daughter… who has been his other state champs . To say he is the best sprint coach in the state is a little arrogant don”t you think ..He has not coached that long ..Pump your brakes playa he ain’t great yet..

  7. Who do you consider great in the state of Illinoise, throw far On? What are your Criteria? What do you think is a long time. Do you coach? Have you ever coach someone from 6yrs old until there were 18yrs? And kept that athlete winning ratio at 97%. Would like to know number 1 Hater??

  8. I would like to chime in here…Of course I think that Coach Brown is great…but there are others, take Thomas Boatright – Aurora Flyers, Fenny Gunter – Evanston Township, Steve Currins – Palatine, Nino Fennoy – East St Louis. I am sure that there are others. Coach Brown is not the only one but he is one of them, Gotta give him his props!!! It takes many things to make a coach great. One thing is to be able to make a difference in a child’s life which is not easy. The other is to help them focus on their talent and help them get to the highest level.

  9. I would like to say this you can not leave out Mr. Walters Sundowners as being a great coach also both on and off the field. A lot of those State champs, or athletes that placed there, he has coached and still is coaching.

  10. Comparing Coach Brown to the other coaches mention in the previous comments is like comparing Jessie Owens to Usain Bolt. There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Coach Angelo Brown. Give the man his props and stop the hating, because its not doing anything but motivating and fueling his camp.

  11. Dear Throwing Far…Regarding your comment about “his daughter being his only or other state champ”. There is one thing you must know about Mr. Brown. He vision is much bigger than State Champions, he produces National Champions.

    • Hey E.T. Phone Home, I was not comparing the coaches. The questions was who is great in Illinois, These other coaches vision are still great there are not history they are current. But only those involved directly with these coaches would know that. Many athletes coached by all these coaches including Coach Brown have been National Champs as well as obtained college scholarships. There has even been some NCAA All Americans. Oh yeah there have even been a few that have run in the Olympics.
      It is ok to be a fan of Coach Brown but you cannot take away what the other coaches are currently doing. Which is not debatable
      You must of missed me giving Coach Brown his props because he has helped more than his daughter.

  12. Ok first, I like to say yes this man has done a great job coaching his daughter she is one of the best sprinters i have saw in some time.. but we are talking about him saying he is the best out ..and when you start saying these things about yourself you gotta live up to those remarks …. Phil Jackson of the nba won 9 championships , you never here him telling someone in the media he’s the best out ..Phil knows their were great before him there will greats after him …And we as coaches some times get it twisted in thinking that we are the ones that make these kids the great athletes they are, but no we don’t … we are the people who motive them.. And for the person that saying I’m hating ..I ain’t never gotta do that playa .. I love track and field its a sport like no other ..but when you start putting yourself on a pedestal saying you are the best and you only just started scratching the surface you got to prove yourself a little more ..get some more champs.. state and national then you can say your a good coach not the best .. 17 years of coaching high school track and football are my credentials…Get your weight up coach brown..

    • So it looks like you are upset about the interview. Let me say this. I’m not taking any credit away from any coach who has been Instrumental in any kids life. I respect all the coaches before me and I know there will be great coaches after me. But just like everything else things change. Today, right now I can say that I feel like I’m the best HS Sprint coach in the game. That’s my opinion. It was a fun interview, I made some pretty up front statements about my team and its Capabilities for this year. I knew people would comment favorable and not so favorable. I very passionate about the sport and enjoy watching the kids compete. Bro don’t worry about my weight, it’s up there and ready to back every word that I said!! Come check out the heat tonight at DGN!!

      • Get your POPCORN ready!!

      • Haha…coach I didn’t have a problem the interview other than when you said you the best sprint coach out the interview was good …but look.. you rite you can have your on opinion, but we must be humble some time …its cool tho .. its all about the kids and I was just saying lets keep it that way .. i’m just like you teaching these kids the best sport in the world that’s all.. I’m the throws coach a Thornton we see lwe a couple of times a year .. I’ve had a lot of success with our boys and girls program as a whole .. but I know there is a lot of other coaches out there are way better than me but I like to learn from them ….I was more surprised at your comment than anything … just let us be humble before we start saying we great. but its cool bro look me up at our outdoor invite or when ever we see lwe during the season .. good luck

      • I just wish everyone a great season. We have some great athletes in Illinois!!!

  13. I don’t know when Aliyah started working with her dad full-time, but wasn’t she with Aurora Flyers early on? Not that it really matters.

    As far as being the best coach in Illinois, I think sometimes it’s easy to be the focus when you currently have the fastest athlete. Case in point, Glenn Mills(Jamaica) has been coaching for decades, however he wasn’t considered to be a great coach until Usain Bolt came along. He’s now considered by some to be the best sprint coach in the world by virtue of having two of the fastest guys on the planet. By contrast Stephen Francis(Jamaica) has coached more athletes with less obvious talent to become world class, but you don’t hear much about him being the better coach even though he appears to be. So if coach brown is the best coach, it shouldn’t simply be based off the fact that one of his athletes happens to be the fastest. That alone doesn’t say enough about his or anyone elses coaching ability. It doesn’t mean he or anyone else in a similar position is a bad coach, but we have to be a bit more thorough in the screening process.

    • A.T.H. Aaliyah has been working with her dad from the day she was born. And yes, that also means while she was with The Aurora Flyers. Once again… I’m sure there are a lot of other coaches who feel as if they are better. Aaliyah is just one if many athletes who train under the Watch full eyes of Coach B. Keep watching my friend for his up and coming athlete who will also show his coaching talents.

      • My point was more so about what I read above where the question was asked about coaching someone from the age of 6 to 18. I remember that she was with aurora flyers early on in terms of being on a team and I was trying to clarify. It wasn’t to say that she couldn’t have been coached by someone else during that time. As I said it probably doesn’t matter either way since it was so long ago. Also my point about having the fastest athlete wasn’t to take anything away from any coach. It’s really just about jumping the gun in terms of evaluating ability. That’s why I used Bolt’s coach. He’s been around for a while, but no one really cared until Bolt. Meaning Glenn Mills, Coach Brown, Calhoun etc should be evaluated based off of a more diverse set of criteria than their fastest athlete. It’s no coaches fault that he/she gets a talented athlete since everyone wants them, but it has to be put into context that’s all.

  14. Would love to see how your girls would do against the worlds best high school teams in Jamaica. The difference between USA and Jamaica sprinters is that we live and breath track all year, not seasonal like in America. Brother Brown, how do you think your team would do against this. .

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