Years ago, I had the opportunity to get to know an incredible man, Dale Brown, the legendary head basketball coach of the LSU Tigers. To say this man impacted my life would be an understatement of the highest degree. If you ever doubt his impact on people, just Google search his story and read comments from his former players, especially Shaquille O’Neal.
For instance, Shaq has been quoted as saying:
“His thing was – go to class, get your education. I wanted to test his theory out, so one day I didn’t go to class. About 4:30 the next morning, I felt the hand of God on my chest. I looked up, and it was Dale Brown. I still don’t know how he got in my room, but he did. Then he ran me from about 4:30 to 7:30 – and then I had to go to class. I said, ‘You know what? I’ll never miss class again.'” (Quotes from this article by Jennifer Hale, Fox Sports.)
Coach Brown and I spoke together at a motivational event our company promoted in St. Louis 23 years ago. It was such a special evening for everyone in attendance as Coach Brown shared his philosophies on life and winning. It was deeply personal and delivered with incredible passion.
The best part of the event for me was introducing coach to my sons, Chris and Ryan. I will always cherish the way he treated my boys. He shared stories with them and told them all about coaching Shaq. He stressed to them that the only thing bigger than Shaq’s talent was his work ethic and character. He talked about his commitment to education and also predicted correctly the type of career Shaq would have in the NBA.
All of this proved to be true, especially the part about Shaq’s commitment to education. Shaq has earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees at LSU. Coach Brown certainly knew his player. Thirty years after they first met, Coach Brown and Shaq still share an amazing bond and endearing friendship based on mutual trust and respect.
Two Years Go By
I was sitting at my home in St. Louis when the phone rang, and to my shock it was Coach Brown. He was in town for the Sweet 16 and asked if Chris, Ryan, and I would like to join him for the tournament. What a thrill this would be for me and my boys! We had such a great time, and again he made every moment special for the boys. Coach knew my wife, Barbara, had been diagnosed with MS, and this was his humble way of bringing some joy to my boys. What a great act of kindness.
Coach Brown had every reason not to be one of the most recognized coaches in college basketball. His life was not easy as a young man. In fact, it was packed with hardship and tough times.
When Brown was a child, his father abandoned their family. They had to move into a one-room apartment over a hardware store. His mother only had an eighth grade education and was left to provide for her family on her own.
Brown didn’t let his circumstances slow him down. He was a great athlete in high school and college, and went on to eventually replace Pete Maravich’s father Press Maravich as the LSU men’s basketball coach in 1972.
Coach Brown never let the early obstacles in his life become permanent. He turned his stopping stones into stepping stones to a bright future. He put LSU basketball on the map and turned it into a nationally recognized program. He had this incredible ability to convince young men to play above their capabilities.
I spent many incredible moments in the Maravich Assembly Center watching him coach many great teams and players. I remember his surprising runs to the Final Four with teams no one expected to get there. What exciting times they were for those of us privileged enough to watch him coach at LSU.
This post is a way of saying to Coach Brown, “Thanks for the kindness you showed my family. Thanks for the lessons on life you shared with us. Thanks for the evidence your life has provided that you can be tough, fair, compassionate and operate with integrity and win.”
At the NBA’s recent All-Star weekend, Coach Brown was recognized with three prestigious awards. These included the Jerry Colangelo award honoring the person who best exhibits character, leadership, and faith in the world of basketball and in the community. I was so happy for Coach Brown. It should come as no surprise who was selected to present the awards to Coach Brown – it was Shaq.
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