|Brownlee leaves coaching realm as a winner in the passing of the torch|
|Written by Tony Andracki, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 30 June 2009 18:00|
The 2009 season came to a close for the ISU baseball team, but it was more than just the end of another year of baseball. It was the passing of a torch.
Jim Brownlee, ISU's head coach for the past seven seasons, officially retired and passed the torch to Mark Kingston, who took over almost immediately after the Redbirds' season concluded.
Brownlee's brilliant career as a head coach has spanned three decades and has included seven conference coach of the year awards while the coach has claimed 858 victories.
"I had a great run," the always-humble Brownlee said. "I'm a very thankful person for the things that I have. I have a great family-I got four grandkids, two sons who are very successful in the baseball business-I'm in four Hall of Fames, and I'm the sixth winningest coach in the Missouri Valley [Conference]."
"The most important thing for me is the way people have treated me with announcing my retirement. I got to throw out a pitch at the Wichita tournament in front of the fans and they gave me a standing ovation. For me, that's one of the premier things in my life."
Brownlee started his baseball career as a player at ISU and was an integral part of the last National Championship team Illinois State Baseball had back in 1969.
Not long after his playing career ended, the 1970 ISU graduate took a job as head coach of Evansville's baseball team, where he stayed for the next 23 years.
Illinois State was able to coax the coach back to his alma mater for seven seasons before he decided it was time for something new.
"There's not many coaches anymore that will coach 30 years at the college level," Brownlee said. "I guarantee that. That's not gonna happen the way things are going, guys can't last that long anymore. I'm proud. Thirty years of being a head coach at the Division I level. It's pretty impressive for me."
In his seven years as ISU's head coach, Brownlee has been influential in turning the program around.
"I think I left the program a lot better than when I got here seven years ago and I'm really proud of that," he said. "With this stadium and the Mike Stalowy's and the Collin Salzenstein's, those are the people of the world that we've established."
Brownlee is as proud of the way he helps mold young men into good people as he is of his accomplishments for them on baseball diamond. Just recently, he attended one of his former players' weddings, an experience he said he was very honored to take part in.
Even though he is done as a head coach, Brownlee doesn't intend to just play golf and relax.
"I'm gonna go into some counseling for a company called Diamond Sports Promotion," he said. "I'm gonna stay in baseball. If I don't like it, I'll get back into coaching. I'll take a year or two off and if I got the bug, I'll go back into coaching.
"This company is very good to me. It's a scouting service and it's travel baseball. It'll keep me involved with 17 and 18-year-old kids who I'd really like to help get to the next level. I've done that my whole life with the recruiting process and I'll do that again for this company."
Though he didn't take over as head coach officially until the '09 season ended, Kingston was on Brownlee's staff in his final year as an assistant coach and the third base coach.
"Coach Kingston is awesome," Brownlee said. "I don't think we could have hired a better guy to take my place. I'm really excited because I got to work with him for nine months, which was very unique that we brought him in to pass the torch.
"I'm a Redbird. I bleed red. I think this was the best way to do it. Sometimes, when the coach retired or gets fired or whatever, you lose a year or two in recruiting. We didn't lose one week in recruiting at Illinois State and now he's good to go. I'm really proud of him. Him and I are best friends and that kind of sums it up."