Coach Brownlee to face son, Coach Brownlee, in Iowa baseball matchup


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Four years ago, Jim Brownlee was entering his seventh season as the head baseball coach of Illinois State. His youngest son, Ryan, was entering his ninth season as an assistant coach on the Iowa baseball team.

When the two teams clashed on April 1 of that year, Jim Brownlee’s Redbirds came out on top, 9-6.
Four years and one day later, in a matchup between the Hawkeyes and Western Illinois, the roles will be reversed. Ryan Brownlee is in his first year as the head coach of the Leathernecks, and Jim Brownlee is an assistant on the Iowa squad as the team’s interim pitching coach.

“I don’t look forward to it at all,” Jim Brownlee said and laughed. “Tuesday won’t be fun. I’m pulling for Western Illinois even though I’m coaching for Iowa. It’s always hard to coach against a friend. Someone has to lose.”

Iowa has faced Western Illinois this season, and the Hawkeyes came out victorious, 7-3, on March 2.
After retiring from baseball four years ago, Jim Brownlee never thought he would coach again. After 30 years, a 854-817-5 record as a head coach, and overseeing the construction of two new stadiums at the University of Evansville and Illinois State, he felt he had accomplished all he set out to do.

“It was time for me to end it,” he said. “Thirty years is a long time. I’ve been married for 43 years, and it was time for me to finally give back.”

During his retirement, he worked part-time with his oldest son, Tim Brownlee, who arranged college baseball tournaments for 18-and-over teams. For three seasons, he also watched the Iowa baseball team as a fan whenwhere Ryan Brownlee was an assistant coach. He also spent more time with his four grandchildren and out on the links, golfing.

But baseball wasn’t quite done with him yet.

When Chris Maliszewski said he wouldn’t return as Iowa’s pitching coach in 2013, head coach Jack Dahm knew who he wanted to be the team’s new pitching coach.

“The first phone call I made was to Jim Brownlee to see if he would be interested,” Dahm said. “He knows our program very well. We’re best friends. I went out and interviewed some other people, but it didn’t work out, and everything just led back to Coach Brownlee.”

Having him on the staff has so far been a success for Iowa pitchers. Matt Dermody, in particular, is having the most successful season of his college career. The senior is 5-1 this year with an ERA of 3.04. In his previous three seasons he never won more than four games and never had an ERA below 4.15.

“He’s honest. I think that’s one of his best qualities,” Dermody said. “Sometimes, he can be brutally honest. He won’t beat around the bush on anything. If you do something wrong, he’ll tell you. He puts a lot of accountability on us.”

As for how long Jim Brownlee’s stint with Iowa will last, he was certain about his plans after this season.

“I’ll be back on the golf course by June 1,” he said and laughed. “I really enjoy coaching for Iowa, and it is a lot of fun, but I’m probably going to re-retire.”

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