Photos by LSU athletics
Watching Dale Brown receive a standing ovation on national television as the basketball court at the Maravich Assembly Center was named in his honor Tuesday brought back personal memories of the numerous years this writer covered his LSU men’s basketball teams.
Although I wasn’t present when school officials officially named the basketball floor Dale Brown Court, I couldn’t help but add my own silent applause for a legendary college coach that worked tirelessly and successfully to make LSU basketball a recognized nationwide brand.
Brown’s family was there when he walked onto what is now his court. Then at the halftime ceremony many of his former players were there, forming a ring of applause.
For those who might have forgotten, Brown, now 86, is the winningest coach in LSU men’s basketball history.
Brown also took LSU to a pair of Final Four appearances (1981 and 1986). His 448 wins in 16 seasons are the most in school history.
Since he retired in 1997, Brown has written books, given motivational speeches and formed his own private business company. In 2003 he suffered what Brown has said was a stroke, but after a recovery period, appears to have no residual effects.
I covered Brown’s teams for the Daily World from 1973 until 1984. Then with the bi-weekly St. Landry Today newspaper in Opelousas, I covered Brown for the next four years. After that I worked as a Daily Iberian correspondent where I covered the Tigers from 1989 until 1994.
Once early in his LSU career Brown cornered me after a game played with Stanford. LSU had just lost and he took me and perhaps several other writers down to the team locker room and using a marker and eraser board, diagrammed offenses and defenses like the triangle and two for us, showing why the Tigers were defeated.
It was fun as a writer watching the Tigers grow over the years into a national contender with players like Rudy Macklin, Shaquille O’Neal and others.
Once when I visited Brown around 1987 in his office one summer to do a series of stories on him and his program, he offered me a plane ride to Alabama the on same night where school officials there were honoring Wimp Sanderson. I had to decline on such short notice.
One time I asked Brown how I could speak with him more frequently on the telephone. He didn’t hesitate and gave me an unlisted home number.
My favorite year covering the Tigers was in 1986. LSU was good that season, but injuries of key starters forced Brown to do what I think is his best overall coaching job at the school.
Brown took his few remaining players like Ricky Blanton and Don Redden, repositioned them into key roles and as No. 11 NCAA tournament seed, defeated Purdue, Memphis and Georgia Tech who were ranked higher.
That led to the Final Four where LSU lost in the opening game.
In that tournament Brown unveiled what he called his “freak defense,” which he described in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, as a series of switching half court defenses aimed to stop certain players from scoring.
That season and several subsequent others, I was also on the floor underneath the basket taking pictures for the Today paper in addition to writing game stories. I sometimes got to sneak behind the LSU bench with the camera to take photos and while doing that, listen to Brown talk to his players. Those speeches were a mixture of strategy and motivation.
Brown once spoke at Opelousas High for a teachers’ workshop, several years after having his apparent stroke.
I wanted to once again listen to the things Brown had to say when I could have had the day off to think more about life with my dad. I told him afterward in a private conversation how much fun it was to cover his LSU teams almost from the beginning until the end. He didn’t hesitate and autographed one of his books for me.
That’s the Dale Brown I remember, that I once knew personally and came to admire as he experienced another great moment at the Assembly Center.