By Sam Bakotich / For The Chronicle
What do Tiger Woods, Mike Krzyzewski and Ron Brown have in common?
All are giants in their respective sports. But most importantly, at dusk or the end of their careers, the three guys who are not just honored for what they have done, but who they are, are defined by respect for what they gave to their sport.
Woods and Duke Coach Krzyzewski are two guys I did not really like when they were in the middle of their careers. Woods was stand-offish and arrogant, and Krzyzewski was just not personal. Both were good at their craft, but that was it.
It was only when they retired or came close to it that they showed their softer sides. Krzyzewski retired as Duke basketball coach this year, and Woods knocks on that door due to a series of injuries.
When I listen to their interviews now, I love both men for a very good reason: they really love (and did) what they do in the purest form. Both worked harder than any two men on their craft, but for reasons that were not clear early on.
But what you need to respect is their undeniable love of their game. Listening to Krzyzewski lately it has become clear all his sacrifice of time and attention was on his players and the game. Woods, deep down, is like many of us golfers: he just loves to get out and hang out with his friends. You can now see how much it all means to him, which you can not help but respect.
Money or no money, these guys probably would have done it for free.
And that brings us to Coach Brown. The difference between Brown and the other two is that he has always been an endearing kind. He’s a coaching freak because he spent all of his 56 seasons coaching basketball for boys at one school (Krzyzewski only had 42 at Duke), and regardless of the scene, this commitment to time and players is exactly the same.
With the first two, you did not realize how much they loved the game until late in their careers. With Coach Brown, it has been clear for years.
But especially for Coach Brown, the love between the players, the game and the coach is a mutual thing.
This is extremely evident in a truly unique book now available, called “History of Centralia Basketball – Ron Brown Era.”
The title is a little misleading as it includes a little more than that. When Coach Brown was a history teacher, he insisted on some historical content with Centralia schools and highlighted some other talented teams and players before his time at Centralia.
But the book is primarily about Centralia basketball under coach Brown.
I had a small part with a little 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 has had anything to do with Centralia basketball between 1961 and Coach Brown’s final season in 2017. It could also be interesting reading for any coach, player or fan. who wants to see the inner workings of a first-class basketball program – from stats, Xs and Os, to how a coach develops players and gains their respect and admiration along the way, while the game first and foremost retains how it should be: fun .
The idea stemmed from conversations over the past many 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 perfectly with this book. He used to compile annual reports on PGA seasons with complete statistical analysis and some narratives.
He knew Coach Brown kept all the stats – and I mean all the stats – from his 56 years and thought it was a shame to have them sitting around collecting dust.
The first time he approached Coach Brown, he hadn’t retired yet, so he wasn’t really hot on the idea. Then Stewart and Maxx Waring, another former player, talked him into moving on after retirement.
Another former player, Chris Thomas, an old colleague of mine at The Chronicle, joined 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 an option for binding, as if one were necessary.
There are a few unique and striking features of this work. It starts and ends with the best parts – two sincerely heartfelt messages written by the 86-year-old hall-of-famer. He starts with an introduction about the book and ends with an emotional message to all his players.
Occasionally there is a very cool forward written by a series of players spanning six decades that clearly reveals the unique love story between coach and players. It tells of how Brown and the program formed a unique fraternity of players, starting with Saturday morning basketball, culminating in high school match nights.
And most importantly, it illustrates how the interaction between high school players and elementary school players formed lifelong friendships, all centered around Coach Brown.
Brown had an unprecedented success with the Tigers, and he collected a record of 723-541 along the way, with a couple of exciting AA championships in 1979 and 1981 that 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 of that time frame: 56 years. During Brown’s time as a coach, he coached 30 sets of brothers and as many as 12 fathers and sons.
The book is a goldmine of Centralia statistics through 56 years, and the architect behind putting it all together was Waring, who did the formidable job of assembling a mountain of spreadsheets.
The statistics are impressive to say the least. And those statistics did not hold up. A big shout goes to the longtime target accountant, the late Ray MacDermott. And to a host of governors, 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 screen includes the team’s match-by-match season record, including playoffs. Plus a team photo, clearly identified, along with the team list with name, position, height and class at the school. (Well, make it to 55 teams. Statistics were lost on only one team.)
The other side includes Brown’s famous Merit Points chart for all players, including at least 13 facets of the game, such as refunds, saves, assists, rebounds, etc. And so below is the complete scoring summary for each player.
It’s a great job of collective state collection over the years, even more so impressive that someone would save it all.
Each screen also includes each team and individual honors for that year.
And that’s just the beginning. Near the end of the book, the statistical landslide continues with seasonal and career leaders in all Merit Point categories.
The definition of Merit Points is on page 150 and provides an excellent explanation.
There are also a number of touching personal photos near the end before coaching Brown’s message to his players.
Overall, like I said, it’s a must have for any Tiger basketball fan and for hoops fans in general. It is a great tribute to a great coach and shows his completely unique relationship with his players.
In my time covering prep sports, Coach Brown is the class in the field of any sport. Class is the operative word, based in part on the fact that he has never received a technical error in 56 years, which in itself is amazing. And on top of that, he’s a great guy.
The book is on sale for $ 20, and all proceeds go to the Centralia boys’ basketball program. You can order at talltigers.com.
There was also a golf tournament at Newaukum Valley Golf Course last summer to raise money for the printing costs of the book. It was one of the funniest basketball family gatherings I have ever attended. Apparently, I was not the only one who had it like that, as it is now thought of as an annual event, again with all the revenue for Tiger boys basketball.
Thomas will post information on Facebook about the tournament, which will be held on September 10th.