Robert Brown retires from Bertie High School

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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WINDSOR – With the exception of hearing a door slam on occasion, the gymnasium building on the campus of Bertie High School was dead quiet on Thursday afternoon of last week.

Chris Jordan (standing) will become Bertie High School’s new Athletic Director when Robert Brown (seated) retires on June 29. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

The students have left campus for their summer break, which also leaves the buildings void of the majority of the staff.

There was one staffer in his office last week. Athletic Director Robert Brown was on his computer, double checking the grades of Bertie’s student-athletes to ensure their eligibility for the upcoming year, even though he will not be there to see them compete.

After 38 years of coaching and teaching, 30 of which have been at Bertie, Brown is retiring. His last official day on the job is tomorrow (June 29).

“It’s the right time to go; it’s time to spend some time with my family,” Brown said as he sorted through a box of new uniforms for Bertie’s volleyball team.

When asked if he would change the way his adult life played out, Brown answered no.

“I have no regrets. I did what I hoped to do, which was teaching and coaching. I just enjoy working with the kids,” he said.

Brown, who grew up in Franklin, VA and graduated from high school there, started his career in 1985 at Elizabeth City Junior High School where he was the head coach of the middle school football and boys basketball programs.

He moved to Roper (Washington County) in 1987 where he spent two years coaching football and baseball. In 1989, Brown was named the head football coach and varsity girls basketball coach at Columbia High School. He also coached the middle school baseball team there for two years.

Brown spent one year (1992) coaching middle school boys and girls basketball at Bear Grass before taking the job at Bertie High School in 1993 at a time when Roy Bond was on the verge of coaching the Falcons to the school’s first-ever state football championship in 1995. The athletic director at that time was another Bertie coaching legend – Ron Cooke.

“There was a job opening here for jayvee football coach; I applied and got the job,” Brown recalled of transitioning his career to Bertie. “I also did sports medicine for the first couple of years here.”

Brown coached varsity and jayvee football at Bertie for 27 of his 30 years at the school. He spent time coaching both sides of the ball. He recalled offering advice to Defensive Coordinator Willie Roberson during Bertie’s run to the state title in 1995 and later served as the Offensive Coordinator when Tony Hoggard was the head coach.

In 1995, Brown said one of the major intangibles to that championship season was the simple fact that, “Roy let his coaches coach. He trusted everybody to do their job.”

On five occasions over the course of his career at Bertie, Brown was asked to serve as the interim head football coach while a successor to the program was sought.

“I ran the weight room and worked on the fundamentals because you didn’t know what offensive or defensive scheme the next head coach would be bringing in,” he said.

He recalled another stint as the head junior varsity coach where he and Mike Dail, the defensive coordinator, came within one game of winning the conference championship.

“We used what talent we had and coached them up,” Brown said. “The kids believed in us. We really played well defensively by mixing up our pass coverage. The kids loved it.”

Bertie won another state football title in 2000 with Brown on the sidelines as an assistant coach.

Meanwhile, Bertie’s girls and boys basketball programs have remained on solid footing. Both have enjoyed great success in recent years with the Lady Falcons playing for the state championship in 2022 and the boys advancing to the Eastern Regional finals this past season.

“We’ve been blessed with so many outstanding athletes during my time here who have made Bertie extremely competitive in all the sports we offer,” Brown remarked.

In the role of athletic director for the past two years, Brown said it adds to his already busy schedule, which includes teaching Honors Chemistry and Physical Science.

“It’s a second full-time job; a lot of long hours for very little pay,” he stressed. “But I’m blessed with a lot of great coaches. I tore a page out of coach Bond’s playbook and just let them coach and I take care of everything else behind the scenes as well as vocally supporting the teams at their games.”

Even after making the transition from coach to athletic director, Brown says he still enjoys watching the players develop their skills.

“You feel like as a teacher and a coach that you make some sort of impact on their lives,” he said. “It makes me feel good is when one of my players, after they graduate, comes back to a game or sees you on the street and stops to say thanks for what I was able to contribute to their growth as an athlete and as a person.”

While he would love nothing better than to continue teaching/coaching and being an athletic administrator, Brown says the time is right to retire. But don’t expect him to completely ride off into the sunset. Old Dominion University has contacted him about mentoring their student teachers.

“I want something where I can set my schedule around the grandkids,” he said. “Plus, Norman Cherry wants me to come and work the press box with him at our home football games, and I might try working with the quarterbacks of our midget league football program.

“And I can always watch the high school football games and call up Darrius (Wesson, the Falcons new head coach) and give him some advice,” Brown added with a laugh.

Brown has hand picked Chris Jordan as his successor as Bertie’s Athletic Director. Jordan is a native of New York City who, as a child, moved with his family to Bertie County in 1977. He graduated from Bertie High School in 1986. He played basketball for coaches Don Coley and Darwin Harper.

“I came back here in 2002 to watch a basketball game and Tony Hoggard asked me if I would be interested in helping coach basketball,” Jordan recalled. “I took the job coaching the boys and the girls teams.”

He took over as the head jayvee boys basketball coach in 2012, winning the conference championship in his first season, and once served as the interim varsity boys head coach. In 2021, Jordan took over the helm of the varsity girls team, leading them to the state finals. He took some time off following that season due to the death of his father, but still helped out coach Kelvin Hayes with the Lady Falcons team during the 2022-23 season.

“I still love working with the kids,” Jordan said. “I feel I’m ready for this job as the Bertie Athletic Director. I know it’s a job with some long hours, but I feel I’m up to the challenge.”

“Chris will do well in this job as athletic director,” Brown said. “He has good people skills and people here think very highly of him. He decided he didn’t want to coach anymore, but wanted to stay around it. I’m just a phone call away if he needs me.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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