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Brown#039;s developed a dynasty at Fort Dale

Johnny Mac Brown had been coaching tennis at Auburn High for almost six seasons.

Each year, the Tigers would qualify for the Class 6A state tournament and fall just shy of that elusive state title.

Then in 1993, Brown decided to move to Greenville to be closer to his parents, who were declining in health.

"I didn't know what kind of job I would find when I got here," Brown said.

His first job was giving tennis lessons to a group of young girls who were interested in the sport.

As the girls improved because of Brown's lessons, one of the fathers offered Brown a job at Fort Dale-South Butler Academy to coach basketball and tennis. Those girls who took lessons from Brown were part of his first team.

"When I came here the boys program was real strong, and the girls program was real weak," Brown said. "I was told had I come here a couple years earlier, we would have won a boys title easily."

In his first year at Fort Dale, Brown teams didn't fair too well, but he did produce one singles champion in Stephanie Pierce.

After Pierce the ball began to roll for Brown and the Fort Dale Academy tennis program. The next year the Eagles went undefeated in the regular season only to get tripped up in the state tournament.

Then in 1996, that group of young girls who Brown gave lessons to in 1993, delivered Fort Dale's first Alabama Independent School Association state championship.

Nine years later, Brown is having find room in the gymnasium's trophy case for the school's sixth girls tennis title.

Some coaches are hesitant to talk the "D" word.

Not Brown.

This year's state championship team had one senior on the squad, so the remainder will return.

Brown not only has rebuilt a struggling girls program, but he's turned it into a dynasty.

It may not be on par with the storied dynasties of UCLA's nine straight college basketball titles, the Chicago Bulls' six straight NBA championships or De La Salle (Calif.) High's 10 straight high school football state championships and national record 151 straight wins.

But Brown's progress at a small private school in Butler County is certainly worth taking note of in this state.

"It has truly been a blessing," Brown said of how his time at Fort Dale has progressed.

So how many state titles will be enough?

Ten has always been Brown's magic number.

"That's always been my favorite number," Brown said. "When I first came here, I would tell a kid if you can get the ball over the net 10 straight times, I'll buy you a Coke.

"It worked, too."

At 56, Brown said he would like to continue to coach until he's 62 and then turn it over to someone "younger."

"I think by then I just might have 10," he said. "That's the goal, and anything more than that would just be bonus."

With a strong group returning from this season's championship team, Brown said he feels good about obtaining his favorite number.

But it may not be as easy to just settle for 10 championships and call it a career.

"We've got some young kids coming along who are going to be strong so it may be hard to walk away," Brown said.

Whether Brown walks away with 10 or just six championships under his belt, he has certainly put Fort Dale and its tennis program on the map.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. You can e-mail him at kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com or call (334) 383-9302 ext. 122.