Gernon Brown – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Jesuit High School
Few coaches have dominated their arena as G. Gernon Brown did in prep sports during the 1930s through the early 1950s. Brown’s Jesuit teams won 16 state championships in three sports during what has been called the “Golden Age” of high school sports. In 20 years as a high school football coach, he compiled a 146-43-11 record. Brown’s football teams won state championships in 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946, claimed seven city titles and were unbeaten in seven seasons. Brown also won 10 state baseball championships and he added one more in his only season as the Blue Jays’ basketball coach.
In 1946, Jesuit had an unprecedented accomplishment that has never been matched – Brown’s Blue Jays won championships in all four major sports in the top classification of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association in the same calendar year.
As the Director of Athletics, he had taken over the basketball team at the start of the season in 1945 when his coach resigned.
“I just read a basketball book, got the best kids and we won,” he recalled. The Blue Jays posted a 15-0 record and defeated Istrouma, 28-27, in the Class AA state finals.
In May, Gernon directed the Jesuit track and field team to the state title as it held off Holy Cross for the championship. Eight days later, Brown’s baseballers topped St. Aloysius, 2-1, in the state title game. Then in December, Notre Dame-bound John Petitbon, also a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, helped Jesuit cap a perfect 13-0 season with a 48-14 victory over Jennings in the Class AA finals. The Blue Jays won every game by two touchdowns or more.
Brown was a graduate of Jesuit himself. As a plebe at the United States Naval Academy, he suffered a knee injury and was afforded the opportunity to attend the college of his choice. He selected Loyola, not for physical education but for the fine arts.
“Give Gernon Brown a piece of chalk and a blackboard, and he can sell anyone on anything,” said Eddie Toribio, who played on Brown’s first state championship football team and succeeded him as the Blue Jays’ head coach 20 years later.
Five of Brown’s baseball players—Charley Gilbert, Tookie Gilbert, Connie Ryan, Fats Dantonio and Putsy Caballero—made it to the big leagues.
Brown died in 1962 at the age of 62. He was also been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (1989).
[Sources: New Orleans High School Sports Hall of Fame, Ye Olde College Inn; Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame]