For Brooks, basketball is a family affair
Bart Brooks loves basketball now more than ever.
“The more I’m in it, the more I’m around it, the more I learn about it, the more I study it, the more I coach it, the more I love it,” he said.
“It’s just like my beautiful wife, the same way. I love her more now than I did 10 years ago.”
The women’s head coach has been all about the sport since picking up a ball at second-grade recess. At that moment, he found the first love of his life, which he followed all the way to a collegiate debut.
But an injury cut his dream short after only two years at the University of Wyoming, saddling him with a career on the sidelines.
The journey taught him a lesson in humility, and Brooks believes it makes him a better coach. Relating to players’ struggles comes easier, he said.
“I fail at this probably more than I realize, but I try really hard to make it fun for our players because I remember what it was like, going to practice and playing a game that I loved but not necessarily having fun,” Brooks said.
Belmont senior guard Jamilyn Kinney recently found herself on the pine pony following shoulder surgery in 2021. Her coach showed up for her, though — for both the No. 14 version and the Jamilyn version of Kinney, she said.
Senior forward Conley Chinn also acknowledged the thoughtful impact Brooks has on his players.
“Not only is he there to be our father figure while we’re at college, but he also gets so excited for us in our successes outside of basketball,” Chinn said.
“I am so glad my college career was in his hands because I know he did everything possible to make it the best possible.”
Once Brooks went the way of coaching, the influence and experiences of his own father — a basketball coach himself — played a big role in Brooks’ philosophy inside and outside of the game.
So a family business that began at home with his dad became a family business on the court with his team became a family business off the court with a WNBA Comet — the second love of his life.
Brooks’ wife, Charlene, who played professionally for Houston, and their two children, 6-year-old Trey and 4-year-old Tyler, spent days on end shooting hoops during the pandemic lockdowns.
Although he appreciated the priceless moments spent with his family, Brooks missed quality time with his team, he said.
Belmont women’s basketball, along with the rest of the world, pivoted to a mask-wearing, quarantining, vaccine-awaiting kind of slow motion. College sports halted and their importance was reassessed in the midst of a public health crisis.
However, the new challenges of basketball didn’t slow down the Bruins’ success: they claimed the programs’ first NCAA Division I tournament victory against Gonzaga University on March 22, 2021.
The triumph against the Bulldogs also marked Brooks 100th career win, a three-digit accomplishment which lands him at third in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball era for the fastest run to that milestone.
The team listening in on Brooks’ timeout talk during the Tennessee Tech game on Jan. 22. Belmont Vision / Jenna Roberts
Brooks is still only in his fifth year with the Bruins, joining the team from DePaul University up in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked closely with legendary coach Doug Bruno over 11 seasons.
Drawing inspiration from Bruno’s success, Brooks finds his current environment rewarding too.
Walking the same hallways as Belmont’s other athletic leaders is a daily motivator, he said. He learns, for example, from baseball’s head coach Dave Jarvis and cross-country director Jeff Langdon.
“Track coaches are teaching basketball coaches all the time about mindset and mental discipline,” Brooks said. “I think there’s a really good connection because we’re all doing the same thing, but they might have a different way of looking at it.”
Seeking the perspectives of others to improve himself, Brooks also finds his coaching staff unbelievably helpful in maintaining the caring and competitive culture, he said.
Associate head coach Jamey Givens stepped upon entering his sixth year on Belmont’s staff roster, and he makes an effort to mirror Brooks’ empathetic and compassionate nature, he said.
They walk the walk of champions.
“Coach Bart does a great job of balancing high standards and championship pursuits, but also not letting our identity be defined by those things,” Givens said.
“The amount of success he has had this early in his head coaching career has not been a surprise to me. Coach Bart has earned it.”
How does he do it, though? What’s behind the triple-digit dubs? Why is Belmont women’s basketball head coach Bart Brooks so successful?
“Players. It’s really that simple,” Brooks said.
“I haven’t made a basket. In my four and a half years here, I have not made a basket or gotten a rebound, gotten a steal. I haven’t done anything. It’s all the players”
It’s not going to happen overnight, but Brooks is determined. They’re building something big at Belmont.
“Our vision is that there isn’t a ceiling for where we’re going,” he said.
PHOTO: Head coach Bart Brooks directing players from the sidelines at the Jan. 22 home game versus Tennessee Tech. Belmont Vision / Jenna Roberts
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson.