If Jim Brown had stood 6-3 or 6-4, chances are he could have made it in the NBA. After all, Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach once singled out Brown and Princeton's Bill Bradley as two of the best playmakers he had seen on the college level.
Instead, he was 5-10.
Jim Brown never made it to the NBA but his on-court skills were a highlight of three years of Georgetown basketball from 1963-66. A master of the fast break, adept at the pull-up jumper or the no look pass, Brown became the Hoyas' first great assist man, with records that still hold up four decades later.
Brown came to Georgetown as a 18 point per game guard at Don Bosco Prep. In his first semester, he led the freshman team to a near-upset of the varsity Hoyas in a scrimmage, and was welcomed to the varsity a season later following a 54% shooting mark and a 16 point average. In his first varsity start, Brown's speed on the break helped lead Georgetown to a 21 point win over Maryland, as the Hoyas opened 5-0 for the first time in seven years.
A 14 point effort versus Navy was a season high, but Brown's most memorable effort of the season came in the Hoyas' upset of #1-ranked Loyola-Chicago, ending the defending NCAA champs 22 game win streak. His defensive stops against Loyola's John Egan neutralized the Ramblers early scoring efforts, allowing the 28 point underdog Hoyas to lead by 12 at the half and 11 at game's end. For the season, Brown finished third in scoring with a 12.5 average and set a new school mark with 148 assists, a mark he would top only two years later.
Brown's junior year was only a partial one. During the 1964 off-season, Brown and fellow junior Owen Gillen participated in an Easter basketball tournament that the NCAA disallowed in November 1964, three weeks before the start of the season. The suspension forced Georgetown's leading returning scorers to sit out nine games to open the 1964-65 season. Brown joined the team in January and appeared in 14 games, with a 9.6 scoring average.
The 1965-66 season may have been Brown's finest in a Georgetown uniform. Past Georgetown teams of the classic era had often either been too small or too slow, but this team was neither. With a front line of 6-6, 6-7, and 6-11, it had height, and with Brown, it had a point guard who could set the pace. The 1965-66 Hoyas set a scoring record that still stands today, averaging nearly 88 points a game, and Brown was on the throttle. Setting up Jim Barry or Steve Sullivan up front, passing off to Dennis Cesar or Bob Ward, or simply driving for the finish gave Brown a range of offensive options that
made the Hoyas tough to beat.
In a season where the Hoyas were as close as any Classic Era team to a post-season bid (at 16-8, Georgetown lost five games by three points or less). Brown scored in double figures in 17 of 24 games, and led the team in scoring in four games, including a pair of games with Illinois and Manhattan at Madison Square Garden. The team leader in free throw shooting (84%), assists, and probably steals (a statistic not regularly kept until the 1970's), Brown received the team's Most Valuable Player award following the season.
Brown's measure among the greats in Georgetown history is by the assist. His 177 assists in 1966 was a Georgetown record that stood for 14 years, and only four players have topped it since, all in seasons considerably more than 24 games. Brown's 7.38 assists per game in 1966 is still a single season record, with his career mark of 6.48 per game is the most for any player with at least one full season.
Jim Brown was not only a fan favorite but a coach's favorite as well. Head coach Tom O'Keefe summed up Brown's influence on the teams of the 1960's by simply saying that "He makes coaching fun."
After a tour in the military, Brown coached the freshman team for a season before beginning a business career. He was selected to the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976 along with teammate Jim Barry, the first of five Tom O'Keefe coached players selected for that honor.