Norwin hires Penn-Trafford grad, former Hempfield coach Mike Brown

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Monday, January 9, 2023 | 11:01 PM


Mike Brown learned a lot in his two years as football coach at Hempfield.

His time there might have been brief, but the knowledge he collected looks to be long-lasting.

“A lot of valuable lessons,” Brown said. “I am very grateful to (athletic director) Brandon (Rapp) for believing in me. I was lucky to be surrounded by so many good people on my staff. The players bought into what we preached.”

Brown hopes to take his experience with him as he joins another Westmoreland County program that is looking to turn a corner.

Brown, 32, was hired Monday as coach at Norwin, three days after he resigned at Hempfield.

“Mike has great qualifications and has proven himself at Hempfield,” Norwin athletic director Mike Burrell said. “He is a great young coach with a bright future.”

Even though he is entering enemy territory, so to speak, because he is a Penn-Trafford graduate, Brown is eager to lead his alma mater’s bitter rival.

“Trust me, I was bombarded with texts from (Penn-Trafford) guys already,” Brown said with a laugh. “They let me know about it.

“I always had an eye on (Norwin) and coaching there. It is on par for what I am looking for. The thing is, my grandpa taught at Norwin and was on the P-T school board after, so there is a little connection there. My uncle told me ‘Pap would be proud of you.’ ”

His hiring is for the 2023-24 through 2025-26 school years, according to the board agenda.

He was not given a teaching position. Brown is a full-time middle school gym teacher at Penn-Trafford.

“I see the full spectrum, from 12(-year-olds) to 12th graders,” Brown said. “I know how to tie a shoe, I can tell you that.”

Brown said he hopes to bring his staff with him “if they’re willing to come.”

His Hempfield staff included Ryan and Ray Reitz, Trevor Petrillo, Joe Lauricia and others.

Brown and his fiancee, Kaylee Zona, plan to get married in December.

“She said when I took the job, ‘Well, looks like the fall is out,’ ” Brown said.

Brown guided Hempfield to its first winning season (6-4) since 2013. The Spartans, with their uptempo, no-huddle offense, created early-season buzz when they started 5-0 for the first time since 1971.

The Spartans went 2-8 in Brown’s first season.

“The kids at Hempfield were outstanding, Brandon was outstanding,” Brown said. “I feel like we left it a better place than we found it. The kids and my staff did all the work.”

At Norwin, he replaces Dave Brozeski, who led the Knights for nine seasons. He was 31-58 with four WPIAL playoff appearances, the last in 2017.

After graduating in 2009 from Penn-Trafford, where he was a wide receiver and defensive back under coach Art Tragesser, Brown played at Mercyhurst.

Tragesser, a longtime coach at Jeannette, coached at Penn-Trafford before finishing his time on the sidelines at Norwin.

“I thought about that, too,” Brown said. “He was a big influence on me.

“It’s similar here to Hempfield. We’re going to adapt to the personnel we have. We’re not going to put a circle in a square peg.”

Brown was a coaching intern at Robert Morris and James Madison before he came back to RMU to coach defensive backs and linebackers.

He was an assistant at Greensburg Central Catholic for two years before he arrived at Hempfield.

With the Norwin vacancy filled, there are still football coaching openings at Hempfield, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Greensburg Salem is expected to hire Ty George, a Hempfield alum, at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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