By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
DADE CITY -- New Pasco assistant coach Joseph Brown took one look at his new players in the spring and came up with a brief, blunt and honest assessment.
"Weak," he told coach Ricky Thomas.
"He thought they were very weak," Thomas said. "He flat out told me, 'Coach, they're weak. They're a long way from being strong.'
"I knew that. I'm not much of a weights guy, but I knew we were weak. So we just put in a plan during the spring and he stayed with it through the end of school and the summer."
But take one look at Brown and it's obvious he knows his way around a weight room. The former strength and offensive line coach at Sickles, he has proved to be the right taskmaster to mold the Pirates into better shape.
"Absolutely," Thomas said. "Joe's done an outstanding job as far as our conditioning. He's really into the weights and it shows. He knows how to get a team strong.
"We haven't been this strong since '98, maybe even '96. He's done a good job, especially with our linemen."
The knock on Pasco around the county for years is that the Pirates too often have played themselves into game shape. That Pasco could be surprised early in the season when they were sucking wind. The stereotype was that Pasco teams of the past were so talented that conditioning was an afterthought.
Thomas said that changed on his watch. Conditioning drills after every practice are run just as hard as at any other school. But the coach admitted his players haven't been as physically strong as he would have liked.
Brown led the way. He designed the workouts, charted their progress and kept an eye on their form.
Which is why this season, Thomas said, that's in the past as well.
"They paid the price," Thomas said, "and I hope we can get some big dividends here in the fall."