Only one coach in Maryland history has won three straight boys basketball titles at its highest classification, Class 4A. That coach, Springbrook High School's Tom Crowell, announced this week that he's retiring.
“It's time,” Crowell said.
The 66-year-old longtime area coach thanked his assistants.
“I want to thank Darnell Myers, Kurt Davis, Rob Harmon — they're the guys that have been there for the nine years,” Crowell said, referring to his tenure at the Silver Spring school.
Crowell said he plans to continue as Our Lady of Good Counsel's football offensive coordinator.
During his nine seasons at Springbrook, Crowell amassed a 193-33 record, including three consecutive state championships from 2008-10. That first state championship team was 28-0.
Crowell has been coaching in the county for 36 years.
“I've been giving this a lot of thought,” he said. “I've been thinking about this for three weeks. I'll miss the players, the big games against [Col. Zadok] Magruder. Just playing in our league games. That's what I'm going to miss the most.”
Crowell said one of the best compliments he received came from Magruder coach Dan Harwood. The Colonels coach told him every time they played Springbrook, Crowell's players always played hard.
Chris Lun, who has coached at Walt Whitman each year Crowell has been at Springbrook, said, “It's definitely going to be weird not having him on the sidelines anymore.”
Crowell began his coaching career in 1978 as an assistant at Springbrook under John Barrett. In 1979, Crowell coached the junior varsity team. In 1980, he got his first varsity coaching job at Wheaton, where he coached for nine years. The Knights went 20-0 in 1982 before losing to Rockville in the regional championship. In the early 1990s, Crowell returned to Springbroook as an assistant coach for Bob Cilento. Then, in 1998, he coached Northwest for three seasons. He then coached at Sherwood for four years before landing back in Springbrook for his final stint.
Over the course of that time, Crowell also coached football. From 1983 to 2000, at Springbrook and Sherwood, he was an assistant under current Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy.
Crowell took over the Sherwood program in 2001, when Milloy took the Good Counsel job. In three years under Crowell, the Warriors were 21-10 and made a 4A state final appearance in 2002.
“Constantly, there was the overlap of the football playoffs and the basketball starting,” Milloy said. “And so I would arrange the football schedule so that — [Crowell is] the offensive [coordinator] — we'd do offense first and he would leave right away and go and do basketball. For the life of me, I don't know how anybody can do that. His intensity and his work. Then, after the basketball practice, he would come back in time for the meetings.”
St. Andrew's Episcopal basketball coach Kevin Jones played for Crowell and said he leans on him for words of wisdom.
“When I got my first head coaching job, he was one of the first people I called,” Jones said. “When you have someone that has won that many games, that high a win percentage, that many state championships, I always lean on him for advice.”
Crowell dedicated his life to coaching and said it doesn't matter the sport, coaching is coaching. Two of his recent players, twins Andrew and Aaron Robinson — both are set to play at Putnam Science Academy this year — attended Springbrook as freshmen in 2010 because of the championship standard that was set by Crowell. And every year they felt like they had a chance to win it.
“We always had the best game plan going into the game,” Andrew Robinson said. “He would always have video footage. He would come to practice prepared knowing every play, every cut, every players' weaknesses and strengths, and he would always have us prepared for the games.”
Last winter, Springbrook went 23-3 and made it to the state semifinals, where they lost to the eventual state champion Henry A. Wise.
“[Springbrook's] spoiled. And you know what, that's what I wanted,” Crowell said. “But along with that [there is] a lot of pressure. And I just don't need it anymore. There's other things I like to do. And to do the job the right way, it's a total commitment. Starts around 5:30, 6 in the morning. Watching tape all day, practice, study halls. It's just time.”