First-year boys' basketball coach Dan Brinkley guided a Prep Charter team that never made the playoffs to the Public League title game and state tournament.
Who are the Prep Charter Huskies? Prior to the 2004-05 season, they were just a small-school squad trying to make a name on the Public League basketball scene.
After winning a total of 19 games in their first three seasons, the Huskies made history as the first charter school to advance to a Public League championship game in any sport. The fourth-year program went from never appearing in the playoffs to coming within six points of Central, 52-46, to nearly win it all.
Probably not coincidentally, Prep Charter experienced one other change last season: the arrival of coach Dan Brinkley.
At the start of the season, his strategy was modest. "We'll play defense and see what happens," he said.
Twenty-two wins later, the system helped put the Huskies over the top.
The rookie coach, 33, was also one of only three city coaches to guide his team to the second round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.
In putting Prep Charter on the map, Brinkley also proved himself quite a discovery, earning the Review's2005 Coach of the Year award.
Brinkley, who was born and raised in North Philly's Abbotsford Projects, balances his coaching duties with two other jobs. He is a full-time residential adviser for students at Girard College and has a sales job for Nextel.
Girard College, where Brinkley previously served as an assistant, was also looking for a head coach just before the Prep Charter job became available. Brinkley was never interviewed, but in the end, he believes everything worked out for the best.
"There is no better situation for me than Prep Charter," he said.
BRINKLEY, A 1989 Dobbins graduate, had the mentality of a coach even when he was a Public League athlete.
"I was always a point guard so I had to think the game," he said. "I was only 5-foot-6, so I had to use my brain to run the ball club and play great defense."
The Brinkley family has an athletic legacy in Philadelphia high-school sports, thanks to Dan's cousin Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley. The city's career-rushing leader, Curtis set several other records as a West Catholic running back before graduating in 2004.
Dan Brinkley brought his own considerable sports experience to Prep Charter. He was a coach for seven years in the Amateur Athletic Union, where he got to know many of the current Huskies players. He now strengthens the bond with his athletes with non-basketball activities such as attending the Philadelphia Auto Show and playing laser tag with the team.
"They beat me every time," Brinkley said of the games. "They shoot me dead in three to four minutes."
Assistant coach Rahim Washington, of 21st and Federal streets, evened the score by beating all the players in friendly games of one-on-one.
"I always admired his game," Brinkley said of Washington. "When I heard he worked at Prep Charter as a physical-education teacher, I knew he would be a natural fit."
Brinkley relied on Washington to help make crucial decisions with strategies and game plans.