What do Tiger Woods, Mike Krzyzewski and Ron Brown have in common?
All are giants in their respective sports. But most importantly, in the twilight or end of their careers, they are three guys who are not just revered for what they’ve done but who they are, defined by respect for what they gave to their sport.
Woods and Duke Coach Krzyzewski are two guys who, when they were in the midst of their careers, I didn’t really care for. Woods was stand-offish and arrogant, and Krzyzewski just wasn’t personable. Both were great at their craft, but that was it.
It wasn’t until they retired or got close to it that they showed their softer sides. Krzyzewski retired as Duke basketball coach this year and Woods, due to a variety of injuries, is knocking on that door.
Listening to their interviews now, I adore both men for one very good reason: they really do (and did) love what they do in the purest form. Both worked harder than any two men at their craft but for reasons that weren’t clear early on.
But what you have to respect is their undeniable love for their game. Listening to Krzyzewski lately it has become evident all his sacrifice of time and attention was for his players and the game. Woods, deep down, is like a lot of us golfers: He just loves getting out and banging it around with his friends. You can now see how much it all means to him, which you can’t help but respect.
Money or no money, these guys would have likely done it for free.
And that brings us to Coach Brown. The difference between Brown and the other two is he has always been an endearing sort. He’s a coaching freak in that he spent all his 56 seasons coaching boys basketball at one school (Krzyzewski only had 42 at Duke) and regardless of the stage, that commitment to time and players is exactly the same.
With the first two, you didn’t realize how much they loved the game until late in their careers. With Coach Brown, it’s been evident for years.
But especially for Coach Brown, that love between the players, game and coach is a mutual thing.
That is supremely evident in a truly unique book that is now available called “History of Centralia Basketball — Ron Brown Era.”
The title is a bit misleading since it encompasses a bit more than that. Since Coach Brown was a history teacher, he insisted on some historical content with Centralia schools and highlighting some other talented teams and players before his time in Centralia.
But the book is first and foremost about Centralia basketball under Coach Brown.
I had a small part with some editing and after seeing the finished product it exceeded all expectations.
To be clear, this book is an absolute must for anyone, anywhere who has, or had, anything to do with Centralia basketball between 1961 and Coach Brown’s final season of 2017. It could also be an interesting read for any coach, player or fan who wants to see the inner workings of a first-class basketball program — from stats, X’s and O’s, to how a coach develops players and gains their respect and admiration along the way while keeping the game first and foremost how it should be: fun.
The idea stemmed from conversations over the past several years between Coach Brown and Jared Stewart, a former player and 1991 Tiger graduate who used to work for the PGA in a capacity that fit this book perfectly. He used to assemble annual reports on PGA seasons with complete statistical analysis and some narrative.
He knew Coach Brown kept all stats — and I mean all stats — from his 56 years and thought it was a shame to have them sitting, gathering dust.
The first time he approached Coach Brown, he hadn’t retired yet, so he wasn’t real hot on the idea. Then Stewart and Maxx Waring, another former player, talked him into moving forward after retirement.
Another former player, Chris Thomas, an old colleague of mine at The Chronicle, joined with Stewart to really get the ball rolling and from there it involved a host of players to help with information and editing that also provided yet another bonding opportunity, as if one was needed.
There are a few unique, and striking, features to this work. It starts and ends with the best parts — two genuinely heartfelt messages penned by the 86-year-old hall-of-famer. He starts with an introduction about the book and concludes with an emotional message to all his players.
In between, there is a very cool forward written by a variety of players spanning six decades that clearly reveals the unique love story between coach and players. It talks about how Brown and the program formed a unique fraternity of players starting with Saturday morning basketball, culminating with high school game nights.
And most important it illustrates how the interaction between high school players and grade school players formed lifelong friendships, all centered around Coach Brown.
Brown had unprecedented success with the Tigers, amassing a 723-541 record along the way, capped by a pair of thrilling state AA championships in 1979 and 1981, which I was lucky enough to cover. He coached former NBA player Detlef Schrempf and pro Lewis Lofton to name just a few of his standouts.
Just think about that time frame: 56 years. During Brown’s time coaching he coached 30 sets of brothers and a whopping 12 fathers and sons.
The book is a gold mine of Centralia statistics over 56 years and the architect of putting that all together was Waring, who handled the formidable job of assembling a mountain of spreadsheets.
The stats are impressive to say the least. And those stats didn’t keep themselves. A big shout-out goes to longtime scorebook keeper, the late Ray MacDermott. And to a ton of stat-keepers, led by Brenda and Tim Penman.
The way the book is set up is that all 56 of Brown’s teams have their own two-page display. Each display includes the team’s game-by-game season record, including playoffs. Plus, a team photo, clearly identified, along with the team roster with name, position, height and grade in school. (Well, make that 55 teams. Stats were lost on one team only.)
The second page includes Brown’s famed Merit Points chart for all players, including at least 13 facets of the game, such as recoveries, saves, assists, rebounds, etc. And then below that is the complete scoring rundown of each player.
It is an amazing work of collective stat-gathering over the years, even more so impressive that anyone would save all of that.
Each display also includes any team and individual honors for that year.
And that’s just the start. Near the end of the book the statistical landslide continues with season and career leaders in all Merit Points categories.
The Merit Points definition is on page 150 and provides an excellent explanation.
There is also a variety of touching personal photos near the end prior to Coach Brown’s message to his players.
Overall, as I stated, it’s a must have for any Tiger basketball fan and for hoops fans in general. It’s a great tribute to a great coach and shows his truly unique relationship with his players.
In my time covering prep sports, Coach Brown is the class of the field for any sport. Class is the operative word, based in part on the fact he never received a technical foul in 56 years, which in itself is amazing. And on top of it all, he’s a great guy.
The book is on sale for $20 with all proceeds going to the Centralia boys basketball program. You may place orders at talltigers.com.
There was also a golf tournament at Newaukum Valley Golf Course last summer to raise funds for the printing costs of the book. It was one of the most fun basketball family reunions I’ve ever attended. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way since it is now intended to be an annual event, again with all proceeds going to Tiger boys basketball.
Thomas will post information on Facebook about the tourney to be held on Sept. 10.