Meet the coach who kept Brett Kavanaugh from the court

Tom Brennan (above) once cut Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from the basketball team at Yale. (Getty file photo)
Tom Brennan (above) once cut Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from the basketball team at Yale. (Getty file photo)

Former Yale basketball coach Tom Brennan watched the hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee with keen interest this week. Brennan has a loose tie to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as he cut him from the Yale basketball team in the early 1980s. That gives Brennan the unique role of keeping Kavanaugh from the court, a topic that comes with exponentially higher stakes this upcoming week as the FBI investigates multiple allegations tied to Kavanaugh in high school and college.

Brennan’s recollections of Kavanaugh from that era are sparse, as he believes he cut him from the varsity team in 1983, which would have been Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale. “He wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh then,” Brennan told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. “He was just [some kid named] Brett Kavanaugh.”

Kavanaugh told the committee that he tried out for the varsity, played junior varsity basketball and attended captain’s practice soon after arriving on campus. He mentioned basketball from high school and college a total of 16 times.

Brennan admits his recollections about Kavanaugh in those days more than 30 years ago are limited. He’s cut dozens of players over the years, which inherently limits interactions. Brennan admits that he didn’t recall much from Kavanaugh writing about the basketball team for the Yale Daily News.

“I don’t remember everything about him,” Brennan said. “I do remember he was a happy kid, a nice kid. You’d have thought he was a freshman at Auburn, not Yale. He was happy all the time.” He added with a laugh: “All those [Yale] people had furrowed brows. I didn’t meet many happy people at Yale.”

Brennan eventually went on to fame and acclaim in college basketball circles long after he left Yale in 1986. He coached Vermont for 19 seasons, the final three of which resulted in NCAA tournament appearances. His shining moment came with a first-round upset of Syracuse University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2005.

Brennan ran into Kavanaugh a few times since they crossed paths at Yale. When Vermont was winning in the early 2000s, Brennan got a tour of the White House during George W. Bush’s tenure that coincided with Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. Kavanaugh gladly showed Brennan and his wife around. They saw each other at the funeral of former Yale basketball star Eric Mitchell. Brennan’s son, Brian, is an assistant women’s basketball coach at St. John’s College High in Washington, D.C., and has ran into Kavanaugh through his daughters’ basketball careers.

Brennan, 69, has stayed ambivalent about Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“Obviously, I’m so disappointed in everyone in this whole process,” he said, adding that alleged victim Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been the only one who has come out looking good. He did add with a chuckle: “Man, how about how he lost his mind the other night. He reminded me of me on the sidelines.”

Prior to Brennan’s flurry of success at Vermont, he was noted more in Northeast basketball circles for hosting a local morning radio show along with his coaching duties. He’d often take out young America East coaches like Delaware’s Mike Brey and Hofstra’s Jay Wright late at night before their games and then have them on his radio show early the next morning.

Brennan has dabbled in the media since retirement and can only chuckle at his footnote in the political saga that’s captivated the country. Brennan said a friend called him this week and said: “Call Frank Sullivan,” he said of the former Harvard coach. “And see if he cut any Supreme Court justices when he was at Harvard.”

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