With milestone 300th victory, West Grand football coach Chris Brown joins elite company

West Grand football coach Chris Brown. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

West Grand football coach Chris Brown speaks to his team following their win over Nederland, which was the 300th of his career. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

True to his nature, Chris Brown did not want his 300th coaching victory to become a cause for a big celebration.

Going into last Friday's game against Nederland, the longtime West Grand football coach didn't talk much about what could take place that evening. Brown admitted that even the opposing team seemed more aware of what was at stake than his own players.

In fact, Brown's wife, Cheryl, said even she wasn't 100 percent certain that a victory over the Panthers would make Brown only the third coach in state history to reach 300 victories.

"That's how little Chris emphasizes that," she said. "But truly, the great thing about Chris is his influence on the young men he's coaching and the kind of person they are, more so than wins and losses.

"How much he loves the kids and how he treats the kids and the influence he has, that's the big part. That's the most rewarding part."

Four days later, Brown continued to downplay the milestone.

"We're 2-0 this year, and that was a league game," he said. "If you coach long enough, this (moment) was probably going to come, but we wanted to win that game for this year."

West Grand football coach Chris Brown. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

West Grand football coach Chris Brown. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

Brown, who turned 63 on Thursday, prefers for the focus to be on his team. But there is no denying that the 22-7 victory over Nederland was another defining moment in a 40-year career that has included four state championships.

Only Pat Panek (306 victories) and Ken Soper (305) have more coaching wins on their résumé, though Kent Denver's Scott Yates isn't far behind Brown with 295 victories. Yates could earn his 300th victory this season, as well.

Brown's coaching journey began at Limon back in 1976, where he won a pair of state titles. He took over at West Grand in Kremmling in 1980, and has been there ever since.

Over the years his teams have advanced to the title game seven times and reached the state semifinals on 14 occasions. From 1995-98, the Mustangs reached the Class 1A championship game four times, winning it all in 1996 and 1998.

Brown has connections to both men who are members of the 300-victory club. At Limon he replaced longtime coach Lloyd Gaskill, who won 228 games and 10 state championships. The first game that Brown coached in was against Panek, who led Denver East for many years before taking over at Machebeuf.

"What a fine gentleman," Brown said. "He was good friends with Lloyd, and both ran the single wing."

Soper, who coached for 47 years, was at Dove Creek while Brown was at West Grand. Like the Mustangs did six years ago, Dove Creek had made the transition from 11-man football to the 8-man game, and Soper was among the coaches who Brown approached to learn more about a new style of play.

It has crossed his mind that he could pass both coaches on the career victories list, but he isn't ready to cross that bridge just yet.

West Grand football coach Chris Brown. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

"It would be fun to happen this year because that means we had a good year. It means we won a lot of games this year," Brown said. "Some people said to me, 'Next up is 306 or 307.' I said, 'Actually, you guys can't add because next up is 301.'

"Actually the number is three, because we're just going with this year."

Brown has worn multiple hats with the Mustangs – he is on his second stint as athletic director and still coaches the boys track team. Cheryl coaches the girls track team and is a former volleyball coach. They met at the University of Northern Colorado and have been married for 39 years.

All three of the couple's children attended West Grand. Ryan was a member of one of the school's state championship teams and played college football at Grinnell. Twin daughters Jessica and Shonda were standouts in track and field and will be inducted into Cornell University's Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend.

Brown and the Mustangs will host Gilpin County on Friday night. After winning only four games a year ago, West Grand has 33 players on the roster this fall — the most since moving to the 8-man ranks — and Brown believes this team has the potential to be the best yet since moving down a classification.

As for deciding his future, the coach said there is no timetable for how much longer he will coach, but the passion is still burning as bright as ever.

So how will he decide when it's time?

"As long as I love to go practice, which I do, and I feel like I'm doing positive things with the kids," Brown said. "If I'm not doing my job, not learning and getting better then it's time to get out. But right now I'm doing all those things."

West Grand football coach Chris Brown. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson)