By Sam Bakotich / For The Chronicle
Compiling a book that contains far more than its fair share of basketball statistics does not sound like an exciting time for the creators of the book, but do not tell Ron Brown, Jared Stewart or Chris Thomas.
Former Centralia High School boys basketball coach Brown, who performed the almost unheard of feat of coaching 56 years at one school, collaborated with Stewart and Thomas, two former players, to create a book about the time, called “The Story of Centralia Basketball – Ron Brown Era “, which has finally been printed and can be purchased now (https://www.talltigers.com/).
The book was a long way off and everyone involved could not be happier. It features a few stories written by Brown, a Hall of Fame coach, a little history of all of Centralia basketball, a detailed dive into each of his 56 teams, and more statistics than one could imagine telling a story together. about how a man managed to spend his entire career in one place.
“Jared was such a big part of getting this book finished,” Brown said. “He suggested it after seeing all my records and statistics books. It took some push and encouragement, but I finally came around and said ‘Let’s do it’, which really meant he did most of it.
“I provided the material and a few other things, and he grabbed it and ran … and he kept pushing.”
After seeing the final product back from the printer this week, Brown could not be more pleased.
“I did not think it would be as nice and readable as it is,” Brown said. “I think people involved in basketball will enjoy it. I’ve already gotten a few comments back from people who’ve seen it and they said it brought back a lot of good memories.
“It triggers a lot of things,” he continued. “And they are all good things.”
Brown said he spoke to former Weber State coach Denny Huston recently about the book, and Huston was amazed at a fact.
“He said ‘Ron, no one keeps statistics that long. No one keeps them all.’ But I told him that if you stay in one place for that long, it’s not that hard, ”Brown said.
Both Stewart and Thomas admitted that the work was extensive, but both called it a “love work.”
“I love the finished product,” said Stewart, a 1991 Tiger graduate. “The best parts for me are the stories Coach wrote. You could see when we went over them with him how emotional it was for him.”
Brown worked on his “goodbye to players” part for several days. Stewart said it was not until Brown’s son, Tim, came over, and they went over it together, that the project and his career took off.
“I think at the time, all of his years as a coach and all of his relationships with players finally hit him hard,” Stewart said. “It was really nice to see what it all meant to him.”
“It also meant the most to me,” said Thomas, a former Chronicle sports writer. “Being able to present this and help write the forward was a great honor for me.”
The book contains pictures and statistics of all his teams and will definitely serve as a conversation starter for all Tiger players.
“The best part of putting this book together was visiting a lot of former players,” Thomas said. “The statistics are all amazing, but what it did was just set in motion a wealth of stories. That’s what it’s all about.”
Trevor Westlund, a 1988 candidate who was also a Black Hills League player for two years and league MVP for a year, helped edit the book.
“This is a unique book,” he said. “I do not know of any other situation where a coach has it been one place for 56 years and who also kept detailed statistics all that time and then could find them all when he retired. “
“And that’s not even all his statistics,” Westlund said. “He has stats I know from when I played Saturday morning basketball, from when I went to fifth grade.”
Westlund said the book can be used as an encyclopedia over a special time in tiger history.
“Even for non-Centralia people,” he said. “If you want to know more about bigger people like Jay Roberts or Detlef Schrempf and how they played in high school, you can compare your stats with theirs. It’s a lot of fun to compare.”
Westlund also hosted a golf tournament on the course he co-owns – Newaukum Valley – to help raise money for the printing of the book. It was so good for everyone that the plan is to make it an annual event and a kind of reunion.
“It’s like a reunion of all the people you want to see,” Stewart said. “I know it was really cool for me. You hear about these players from different eras and you always wonder how they are and it’s fun to meet and talk to them.”
In Brown’s time at the helm of the Tiger, he compiled a record of 723-541, which was limited by two state titles in 1979 and 1981.
The ’79 title team was special because it was the first and featured people like Bob Peters, Paul Coty, Bob Wollan and Greg LeDuc to name a few. All eight seniors on that team showed up for the golf tournament, and when it came time to take a special photo of the seniors and coach Brown, LeDuc surprised the group by pulling out the actual net that had been cut from the title game and carrying it around neck to the image.
“It was amazing,” Thomas said. “I can not believe he had that net for the last 43 years. He had it hidden in his coat while we waited for (longtime assistant coach Tim) Gilmore to come into the picture, and then he said something along the lines of “wait, this picture would not be complete without this”, and then he pulled the net out. And the guys went crazy. “
Thomas even remembered going to church as a young boy on the Sunday after the title in ’79, and LeDuc sat in front of him in his letter jacket with the net around his neck.
“It was so cool,” he said.
Thomas said the book helps revive memories like that and many more.
“That tournament was great,” said Brown, who attended and had a ball. “It was really cool. There was a lot of hugs and laughter and the memories were shared.”
Now that the coaching is done, the book is finished and life is going slower, how will the old coach be remembered?
“I never thought of that,” Brown said slowly. “Mostly just like a good coach who worked hard. I always tried to be fair and I thought I was consistent in what I did. And I have always hoped that I was a good example for the players and the students. “