Houston-Baylor a family affair for Alvin Brooks and son
Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle
INDIANAPOLIS — On Saturday night, somewhere in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Final Four battle lines will be split right down the seam.
The Brooks family will be making a fashion statement with T-shirts as much about family pride as they are bragging rights.
One side of the shirt will be red for patriarch Alvin, an assistant coach at the University of Houston. The other side will be green for son Alvin Brooks III, an assistant coach at Baylor. Houston versus Baylor in the national semifinals. Brooks versus Brooks.
What’s mom, Richelle, to do?
“What happens is because Al is the loved and beloved son; he always gets preferential treatment,” Alvin Brooks said. “Whenever they have the ball, they are going to be cheering wildly for Baylor. Although I will get some love when we have the basketball and we are on defense.” It’s not uncommon for a father-son combo to be on the same team. UH has such a pairing in coach Kelvin Sampson and his son Kellen, another Cougars assistant. It’s rare, however, for two family members to occupy seats on opposing benches in the national semifinals. Father and son began to discuss what-if scenarios last season before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament, denying Houston and Baylor — expected to be high seeds — chances for Final Four runs.
“We talked if he made it to the Final Four, I would be at his game, and if I made it, he’d be at my game,” Alvin Brooks said. “Whoever imagined we would both be there at the other end of each other’s bench?”
That became a possibility on Selection Sunday when Baylor, one of the top teams in the country all season, was selected as the No. 1 seed in the South Regional. Houston, a top-10 program for most of the season, drew a No. 2 seed in the Midwest.
“When I looked at the bracket … if they won their region and we won our region, we’d meet in the semifinals. I said, ‘Wow, that would be crazy,’” Alvin Brooks said. “As we won the first-round game, three more to go. As we won the second-round game, two more to go. Man, this is getting real as we got to the Sweet 16. And next thing you know, we are in the Elite Eight.”
Baylor (26-2) was rarely challenged in four tournament games. Houston (28-3) survived an upset-filled Midwest bracket. On Monday night, the Cougars beat Oregon State 67-61 to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984. A couple hours later, Baylor beat Arkansas 81-72 for its first Final Four berth since 1950.
Alvin III FaceTimed with his father from the court during the Bears’ celebration. Alvin Brooks waited for his son at the team hotel, sharing an embrace as they both wore the same Final Four cap.
“It’s hard to get here,” Alvin Brooks said. “But then to get to the Final Four in the same year and then play each other in the first semifinal is amazing, unbelievable.”
A former star point guard at Lamar, Alvin Brooks has spent 40 years in coaching at such stops as Texas A&M, Kentucky, UTEP, Texas Tech, Lamar and North Texas. He has a 23-year association with Houston as a head coach or assistant, including the last seven seasons on Sampson’s staff.
Alvin III admits he never wanted to be a coach. With a business finance degree, he thought his career would be to manage athletes’ money. That all changed when he spent two months with good friend Rashard Lewis, who at the time was playing for the Seattle SuperSonics.
“I was miserable. I was chasing money,” Alvin III said. “I thought I was going to manage athletes’ money and be a millionaire. I found out that wasn’t my calling.”
Alvin III spent two weeks going to every Sonics game and practice. He called his dad to tell him of his new career choice: coaching basketball.
“No,” Alvin Brooks said. “Call me back in two weeks.”
Two weeks passed, and Alvin III was still hooked.
“At the time, I wasn’t convinced,” Alvin Brooks said. “I wasn’t sure he was in love with coaching.”
Rather than start with a Division I job, Alvin Brooks told his son (who had an offer), he needed to gain experience at the junior college level. As part of his first job as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith, Alvin III had many responsibilities, including to open the student rec center every day at 4 a.m. For the first few weeks, the school couldn’t pay him. There was no way he would stick around, his father thought.
“How do you like it?” Alvin Brooks asked.
“I love it,” Alvin III said.
In his third season in 2006, Alvin III won a national junior college Division I title. He moved to Midland College the following season and won another title.
Since then, Alvin III has been on staffs at Bradley, Sam Houston State, Kansas State and, for the past five years, Baylor, where under coach Scott Drew he’s been a part of three NCAA Tournament appearances and a 52-6 record the past two seasons.
“He’s definitely allowed me to create my own path,” Alvin III said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Alvin and Alvin III had not formalized the high demand for family tickets. Alvin Brooks said the two will be “locked in” and probably not talk as much beginning Wednesday.
“It’s all love, but he’s as competitive as I am,” Alvin Brooks said.
Alvin III is still searching for his first win against his dad.
“When I was at Sam Houston and he was at Houston. we lost twice,” Alvin III said. “If you count the scrimmage for (Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017), I’m 0-3 unofficially and 0-2 officially.”