Chapel Hill High nets former FAU volleyball coach

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 07:57 PM

Chapel Hill High School has snagged former Florida Atlantic University volleyball coach Jody Brown.

“He brings a lot experience to our volleyball program,” Chapel Hill athletics director Tim Bennett said. “He is very passionate about the game, and I think our ladies will be excited to play for him and his staff.”

Brown is following a good one. He knows it, too.

Former Chapel Hill volleyball coach Sherry Norris retired in April with 732 career wins, the state standard.

“I admire her,” Brown said.

Norris taught physical education at Seawell Elementary School, near Chapel Hill High. Her retirement from that role meant, according to state rules, at least temporarily giving up her coaching duties at Chapel Hill High, where last season she coached the girls’ basketball team to a 3-A title during a 32-0 run.

Teachers retired from public schools are allowed to return to those campuses six months after retirement, and Norris said she will reapply for her position with Chapel Hill’s basketball team.

Norris would not have exhausted that six-month window in time for the start of volleyball season.

Last season, Chapel Hill’s volleyball team went 24-6, losing to Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons High School in the third round of the state playoffs.

Norris coached at Chapel Hill for three decades. She said she hasn’t met Brown but added that the girls returning to Chapel Hill’s volleyball team wouldn’t have any issues with their coach being a man. Some of the Tigers play club volleyball for male coaches, Norris said.

“They’ll be just fine with that,” Norris said. “I don’t think they care as long as the person knows volleyball.”

Brown said, “I’ve taken teams to the NCAA tournament before.”

At FAU, located in Fort Myers, Florida, Brown was 225-259 (.465) in 17 seasons. His last season there was in 2011. Before that, Brown coached at West Virginia. He played volleyball at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.

“It’s where Bruce Jenner went to school,” Brown said. “Bruce is older than I am. I’m probably happier than Bruce.”

Brown was riffing on Jenner’s marriage to the former Kris Kardashian.

The Chapel Hill job is Brown’s first high school coaching gig, one of those right place-right time deals insofar as he and his wife moved to North Carolina from Florida in 2013 after she accepted a job as director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. Brown described his wife’s job as helping both UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham and UNC executive vice chancellor and provost James Dean Jr. get the school’s students-athletes on solid academic footing, something he’d aim to foster with Chapel Hill High’s volleyball team by bringing in experts to talk to his players about topics including time management and nutrition.

Like Norris, Brown won’t be on staff at Chapel Hill High. But he said he’d be on campus quite a bit, popping in during his team’s study-hall sessions, for example.

Brown said his travel schedule would continue to include various stops to offer volleyball instruction. He said professional beach-volleyball players are among his clients.

There is no need to recast Chapel Hill’s volleyball program, Brown said. The groundwork Norris laid is firm, he said.

“Teams win because of the kids, not the coaches. We just assist a little bit,” Brown said. “Coach Norris has created this good learning, competitive environment.

“It’s not like I have to go in and rebuild the program,” Brown said. “It makes going in there a little easier.”

Brown said some of Chapel Hill’s volleyball players already have reached out to him. His résumé includes his work at USA Volleyball camps in various parts of the world, giving him coaching experience on the prep level.

“I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of high schools in the junior-development realm,” Brown said.

Brown, 53, said he watched the great Megan Hodge play volleyball well before she was the main attraction at Riverside High School, Penn State University and Team USA.

Hodge’s father is Riverside’s volleyball coach.

Brown said Norris actually taught his son at Seawell. He said he has walked past Norris and spoken to her without realizing until later that they had volleyball in common.

“Never put it together,” Brown said.