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Former St. John’s star Briana Brown blazing trails in men’s basketball front office world with Connecticut Cobras

Briana Brown was a key member of St. John's women’s basketball’s run of greatness in the early 2010s. Now she’s the president of business operations for a pro men’s team and is hoping to continue rising in her profession.

Briana Brown
Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Cobras

Last Friday Swish Appeal had the opportunity to talk to former St. John’s women’s basketball player Briana Brown, who was recently hired by The Basketball League’s Connecticut Cobras as their president of business operations. The Cobras are entering their inaugural season in the TBL, which is a professional men’s basketball league that helps develop players for the NBA G League and overseas.

Brown played at St. John’s from 2010-11 to 2013-14, which was during the Red Storm’s longest stretch of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2010 to 2014). So she made the tournament all four years. She also made the second round three times and the Sweet 16 as a sophomore. She was a key contributor as a junior and senior when she averaged 8.6 and 9.2 points per game, respectively.

Highlights of Brown’s St. John’s career include when her team ended a 99-game home win streak of UConn’s on Feb. 18, 2012 and when she made the game-winning three to defeat USC in the first round of the Big Dance as a senior.

Brown is from Norwalk, Conn., which is where the Cobras are located, though their games will be played at the University of Bridgeport 15 minutes up the coastline. As president of business operations, she organizes all travel arrangements and accommodations, helps with finances, manages systems, helps with the team’s enrichment program and calls herself “a huge relationship-builder when it comes to vendors and fans” as she strives to create a positive atmosphere for the program.

Here is our Q&A with Brown about the upcoming Cobras season and her success in a male-dominated front office world:

How important is it to grow the visibility of minor league basketball, the WNBA and everything that’s not the NBA?

Briana Brown: “It’s extremely important. The NBA’s on such a high level, but there's also so many different chains below it and then the WNBA right next to it. It’s very important to grow everything around the NBA because this is where you’re going to get your feeders from. With the G League and our league, the TBL, you have to be able to feed these guys into the next level. For the WNBA, it’s very important on the women’s side because I mean I played basketball, I aspired to go to the WNBA but I went overseas and played — women’s basketball is coming up, it’s definitely, definitely making a run and I just hope I see more and more people wanting to be fans of both aspects.

What does it mean to be doing what you’re doing in your hometown?

Brown: “It means everything. To be able to bring professional men’s basketball to the Fairfield County area and just Connecticut in general means a lot to this community. We’ll be able to have entertainment, we’ll be able to see people who are local, our local heroes, our local basketball heroes playing at the next level. And it gives those kids in the community something to look up to, people to look up to. It gives a positive vibe back to the Fairfield County community in spite of what’s going on with the pandemic. It’s nice to have a nice refreshing feel to this.”

Connecticut, do you think it’s a special place for basketball? With the UConn men and women, Celtics aren't too far. Can you just speak to the popularity of basketball in the state of Connecticut?

Brown: “I mean riding off the back of UConn every year, hey, we are a basketball Mecca. UConn has just put Connecticut as a state on the map when it comes to collegiate basketball. I think it’s very helpful for us to bring in professional basketball now to continue on that legacy, to continue on that support.”

What should fans be excited about in the upcoming Connecticut Cobras season?

Brown: “Fans should be excited about just us. We are here, we are bringing our local heroes, our local guys to Connecticut. We’re bringing it to a higher stage. They should be excited about just being able to enjoy a game in their backyard. To be able to see us when we come out into the community when we do our enrichment programs. They should be excited about just enjoying the environment. Because we’re gonna put on a great, great production for them and we want everyone to come out and support. We want to support both ways, whether it's them and they support us or we support them. That’s just what we’re gonna do.”

How important is it to show young girls and also current women’s college players that they can have a future in the business side of things?

Brown: “It’s extremely important to be in this role. I’m so grateful to be in this role and I’m able to be a role model to young girls and young boys as well that they can do big things. I want to make sure that they know that they don’t have to limit themselves, they shouldn't limit themselves from doing anything and being anywhere they want to be at any level on any stage. I think it’s extremely important that myself and the rest of my team continue to be role models to those around us because, especially in our community, they need to know that they can be anything or anyone they want to be.”

The TBL’s CEO is Evelyn Magley, the first Black female CEO of a men’s pro sports league in North America. How has she inspired you?

Brown: “It’s incredible to see where she’s come from and it’s incredible to see what she’s doing right now, what she’s able to accomplish and the values that they portray for the TBL and her vision to want to make sure these guys are getting the proper education. ... Her being in such a high role inspires me to continue on in my endeavors and to continue on being the best I can in the operations role and moving forward and eventually getting to the NBA at some point. She makes things even more possible for us.”