Returning to JU is ‘full-circle’ for former hoops star Dee Brown

Former Sacramento Kings assistant coach for player development Dee Brown, left, talks with Kings assistant coach Corliss Williamson, during a 2015 game. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, Associated Press)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was the right time for a reset and Dee Brown wanted to be a major part of it at his alma mater.

Brown, the former Bolles and Jacksonville University basketball star turned NBA Slam Dunk champion and former pro coach, was hired this week to help the college across a number of different categories.

Brown’s hire comes a week after the school hired Jordan Mincy as the program’s new men’s basketball coach as the rebranding of the program takes off. Mincy has vowed to reshape JU, be more visible and active recruiting locally. His hire has already landed one area product, former Bishop Snyder star Gyasi Powell. Powell spent last season at Davis & Elkins College, averaging 16.4 ppg.

The local aspect is a major part of Mincy’s focus, and something that Brown endorses.

Brown said that he had been contemplating returning to JU in some capacity for the past two years and the timing was right for the move. His title, executive director of university and athletic relations, covers a gamut of roles that will surely continue to evolve.

“Been full circle,” Brown said on Friday. “I mean, you couldn’t tell me 30 years later after leaving JU campus I’d be back in a position where I’m helping the same type of kid that I was coming there.”

Brown will help the school with fundraising initiatives, network within the community and work with athletes across all sports at the university. Brown said it’s full circle for him. And he wants to help JU usher in a new era in athletics at the program, with an emphasis on being an example for local students to see.

Brown, after all, was a Jacksonville kid who stayed in town and went to college here. He said that watching another area player thrive at JU, then-Forrest High star Otis Smith, made him want to be a Dolphins player.

“There’s the local guys that got me excited to be there and grow and be there for four years. And you know, I was blessed enough to keep improving and get drafted in the first round, so it can happen,” Brown said. “And I think that’s what the people need to see, you know, me being involved and around. It can happen.”

Much like JU icon and NBA hall of famer Artis Gilmore, Brown’s name is forever linked to basketball at JU.

He was a first-round pick of the Celtics in 1990 and won the dunk competition the following year. Brown’s signature move — pumping up his Reeboks before each dunk attempt — became a lasting NBA image. His no-look dunk to win the competition is also etched into pro basketball lore.

Brown said that he wants to drive home the message that JU is somewhere that local athletes can stay and play at, especially in men’s basketball. While other JU sports teams have recruited the area well, basketball has not had that same success in landing local talent.

Brown said that he was stunned by a conversation that he had with athletic director Alex Ricker-Gilbert that highlighted just how much work needed to be done on making those local inroads.

“I was talking to Alex, and Alex is like, I’ve been here seven years, and I don’t think we’ve had one player from Jacksonville play on the JU basketball team. And I was flabbergasted. I was like, ‘really?’ So, you’ve been here seven years and we haven’t had one player from Jacksonville, play for Jacksonville University. He goes, ‘no,’” Brown said.

“And again, that’s the connection. That’s being in places. That’s going to every school. That’s talking to the high school coaches. That’s being at camps. That’s inviting former players who live in the community that have connections to their high school, or their local community AAU team, giving them a voice. Some input on what’s going on in the city. A pulse. Because they’re there.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.