Independence coach Jason Brown discusses the fame of Last Chance U
After documenting the rise of Independence Community College and its brash head coach, Jason Brown, in an eight-episode season that debuted July 20, the showrunners told the Eagle on Friday at the Jayhawk Conference Media Day that the plan is to return to Independence for next season.
Netflix has not officially greenlit the project yet, but filmmakers were on hand Friday to film Brown and are operating like they are covering Independence again.
Brown said he has yet to see every episode, but he’s certainly felt the impact. The day after the show was released, Brown said he received 4,000 e-mails. He’s already been approached by numerous book publishers and reality television shows. He had to delete Twitter on his phone because it was getting so bogged down from all of the notifications.
“It’s crazy, I didn’t think it was this big,” Brown said. “On the way here, we stopped at two stores and people wanted autographs and pictures. I’m just like, ‘Wow, I’m not a rock star. I’m just a coach.’ This is just me being me.
“I do want to thank the ladies out there because they’re blowing me up too. I guess I said I was single on the show. That’s been interesting to say the least.”
Most of Brown’s colleagues in the Jayhawk Conference said they have no plans to watch the show, but one coach made sure not to miss a second. In fact, Garden City coach Jeff Sims stayed up until 2:01 a.m., when the show was released, to start his binge watch.
Not because he was eager to watch the drama unfold. Rather, he was looking for a competitive advantage.
“I watched every episode because I’m a football coach,” Sims said. “I didn’t watch it for entertainment. I was listening. I know what signals they like to use now. I listened to everything they do. They get some advantages because of the show and there are some disadvantages because of the show; and my job is to do what’s best for Garden City, and I’m going to put our guys in the best position to succeed.”
Brown was a polarizing figure for many in Season 3 and was a topic of discussion on Friday. He’s loud and brash and quick to let the expletives fly. He’s shown berating his assistant coaches and calling his players derogatory terms in closed meetings, but the players also say Brown is the type of coach they want to play for.
It’s a style that has transformed Independence from an afterthought to Jayhawk Conference champions in Brown’s second year. But is that kind of style a good reflection of the conference?
“What do they say, any publicity is good publicity,” Butler coach Tim Schaffner said. “It put a spotlight on our conference and showcased our coaches and our players, so I think it’s great.”
“Jason Brown doesn’t work for me, so my opinion on his program doesn’t matter,” Sims said. “But I know how we run our program and if Last Chance U was on our campus it would be distinctly different. We run our program in a way that makes our board of trustees and our president proud.”
In response to critics of his “tough-love” approach, Brown has a message: get used to it.
“Love me or hate me, I’m not going to change,” Brown said. “As long as kids aren’t out there robbing McDonald’s and not graduating. That’s our No. 1 focus, getting them to graduate. I can sleep at night if they do that. I just believe you’ve got to be tough. I don’t think whispering sweet nothings into my kids’ ears is going to get results.
“If I have to take the heat for being rough around the edges, then I’m fine with it if it means they’re graduating and becoming great people in society.”
Coming off its best season in program history (9-2 with a bowl win), Independence has its sights set on the 2018 national championship. The Pirates were predicted to win the Jayhawk Conference on Friday.
Independence kicks off its season on Aug. 23 at Dodge City.
“If they do come and film again, you’ll see me just like you did,” Brown said. “I’m not changing.”