Changing of the guard: Darrick Brown era begins
After two coaching stints totaling 11 years, James Farnum no longer leads the Olivet Comets softball team. Taking his place is former Kellogg Community College (KCC) coach Darrick Brown.
Before accepting the Olivet softball position, Brown spent the previous two seasons leading the Bruins, located in Battle Creek. Under Brown’s leadership, the Bruins’ last season record was 37-13, good enough to win the Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) Western Conference championship; as well as the MCCAA state championship. Brown previously won a MCCAA Western Conference title with Glen Oaks in Centreville.
Brown’s previous coaching experience before Olivet spans 24 years. Stops along the way include one year at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and some time with Glen Oaks Community College. Brown also spent two years as the pitching coach for Davenport University in Grand Rapids.
In 2011, Brown led the Chicago Bandits to the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series, winning in two games over the USSSA Pride. On top of coaching, Brown has an organization called Brown’s Fastpitch Academy, helping softball players train and get recruited to colleges.
Athletic Director Ryan Shockey has high hopes for a successful Comet softball season this spring, with Brown bringing in much expertise and experience. “In the first year, depending on the state of the program when they [the coaches] come in, we look for a few things. If the program has been successful we look for a new coach to continue that success and if a program has had some struggles we look for a coach to come in and change the culture. Darrick came into a situation that was kind of in the middle [of the pack], our team had done well in the past but there was room for improvement,” Shockey said. “He has done a great job with setting the tone for Olivet College softball moving forward and we expect great things from him. He has done a great job connecting with the current players and also with recruiting some new talent for this upcoming season and next year.”
As for Brown, he feels that there’s a bright future and big goals ahead for his Comets. “My vision is championships. We talk about rings. We saw all of the rings the football team had and we want to be the female version of what the football team is doing and bring home as many championships as we can,” Brown said. “Right now that’s kind of our drive ... we want to get better every day and work toward winning and being the team that’s competing for a championship every year and hopefully make a lot of trips to the national tournament.”
With hunger for a championship and placing a large emphasis on recruiting top talent to the roster, Brown is confident about the direction that the program is heading toward.
“The biggest thing is bringing in student athletes that are from successful programs. I think right now with the 12 commits we have, a lot of the players we have coming in next year have been part of teams that have won conference championships or even regional championships and there are several up there that have won state championships or have at least played in the state championship game and then their travel organizations that they play on in the summer have had a lot of success,” Brown said. “So, I think bringing in those types of players is probably my number one priority so far; with the class we have coming in, we’re heading in that direction.”
Junior slugger and pitcher Ashlynn Grubb is optimistic about the season ahead under the direction of her new coach. “Darrick Brown coming in is great. Everywhere he has been, Glen Oaks [in Centreville] and Kellogg for example, he has changed the softball programs around. He is here to win and pushes us to want to win,” Grubb said.
Brown has no easy task ahead of him. The Comets are ranked seventh of nine teams in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) preseason poll.
Grubb said, “Well, after the rankings came out this past week and us being ranked 7 out of 9 really hit us. We are setting our goals high by simply setting our goals for Florida, coming home [with a] 10 and 0 [record]. We want to make it into the MIAA [Tournament], win the MIAA.”
As far as looking for improvement from last season, Grubb said, “After last year and all, being devastated about how our season ended, I would say we need to work on our offense, and communication. We have grown this year as a team and are more of a family.”
The Comets first game of the Brown era is March 5 in Naples, Florida at 9 a.m. against Marian University, based in Wisconsin as part of the annual Gene Cusic Classic spring tournament.
Photo: Darrick Brown/Courtesy photo