Vermont coach has the gift of gab Tom Brennan is a fixture on the radio - and on the hardwood.

Posted: March 17, 2004

BURLINGTON, Vt. — So there was this New Jersey Irishman sitting in a corner at a Vermont classic rock station at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, talking sports, with occasional interruptions by Warren Zevon and Aerosmith.

"Get up, you sleepyheads!" Tom Brennan, part of The Corm and the Coach Morning Team, shouted later in the show. "If you've got to be at work at 8, you've got 53 minutes!"

And he had a plane to catch. The Coach really is one. After he left the station, WCPV-FM, the 18th-year head coach of the Vermont Catamounts was taking his team to Buffalo, to the NCAA tournament, for the second straight season and the second time in the school's history.

Working the 5:30-to-9-a.m. shift at 101.3, he also doubles Howard Stern's ratings in Vermont, because on the air, you get Tom Brennan. He set up his first guest, mentioning that Vermont was one of 10 teams CBS intended to follow around for the tournament.

"Maybe they're looking at budget cuts," the caller wondered. "Let's follow a team around for 12 minutes."

The Catamounts are officially two-billion-to-one to win it all, and a 20-point underdog tomorrow against Connecticut. As a No. 15 seed, they're staying at a Holiday Inn by the airport. Brennan said he couldn't wait to meet Emeka Okafor, the UConn star, and introduce the three players who were going to be guarding him.

Brennan howled when that first caller - "Dr. Cory Windblown," a show regular and allegedly Brennan's first roommate at the University of Georgia - brought up Billy Packer, the CBS basketball analyst who took shots at St. Joseph's and its No. 1 seeding this week.

"If they built statues for self-importance," Dr. Cory said, "Billy Packer would be like the Washington Monument."

Brennan, a native of Phillipsburg, N.J., and an early Rollie Massimino assistant coach for a couple of years at Villanova, did take umbrage at an article in that morning's paper about influential Vermont politicians and other VIPs who were getting NCAA tickets. He said on the air: "Shouldn't the governor be there?" Vermont's former governor, Howard Dean, was at the last game.

"You give two to Todd down at the Mobil Station," Brennan said. "He works overnight. That's a VIP to me. . . . We don't want to be big time."

His wife delivered socks to the station yesterday in a plastic bag.

"It's hard to find a good woman, Joey Victory," he said to another show sidekick. "We thought we were going to the Miami regional. I had Italian loafers and no socks."

Brennan knows that Texas Tech coach Bob Knight will also be in Buffalo. He doesn't figure they'll spend any time chatting.

"We're just different, very different - complete opposites," Brennan said. "He makes me nervous."

St. Joe's is more his kind of squad, and Phil Martelli his kind of coach.

"Their third-best player is named Chet!" he told his listeners. "You coach at St. Joe, you've got St. Joe players. You coach at Stanford, you've got Stanford players."

And if you're at Vermont . . .

He remembers sitting next to Martelli once at a summer game, watching a player, with Martelli joking, "One of us is in the wrong gym."

But Brennan's got a special one right now in Taylor Coppenrath, the two-time America East player of the year, who scored 43 points in Sunday's conference title game, his first game back after he sat out a month with a broken hand.

Coppenrath is a native Vermonter, from West Barnet, a one-road hamlet over in the Northeast quadrant. Coppenrath didn't make his high school varsity until his junior year. Brennan has taken to calling him Seabiscuit. He loves talking about how he had 200 people over to his house Sunday after the game, but where was Taylor? Home taking a nap.

Brennan has been doing this radio show with the station's program director, Steve Cormier, for 11 years. When his teams were back in the pack in the America East, they used to wake up opposing coaches for unscheduled early-morning game-day interviews. But not so much anymore. He's at the top, so he's got to act a little more respectable. He just calls his closest friends and wakes them up.

Yesterday, Brennan had to cut out from the radio station 30 minutes early. He had that plane to catch.

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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