Memories, Basketball and Celebration in the House that Ron Built
LEGEND: Ron Brown Honored in Ceremony for Coaching Tigers for 56 Seasons
By Matt Baide
Former Centralia High School boys basketball coach Ron Brown has 722 career wins, six league championships, 16 state tournament appearances and two state championships to go along with 58 years of coaching memories.
On Saturday, Brown was honored on Ron Brown night at Centralia High School for his 56 years coaching the Tiger’s boys basketball team.
“It’s really been special. I don’t think I deserve it, (but) it’s still been special. Seeing former players and fans through way back years is very meaningful,” Brown said. “I said don’t do anything, but now that it’s over with, I appreciate them doing it.”
Many former players came out to the event to see the longtime Tiger coach honored at a ceremony which coincided with the varsity game against Tumwater. There’s at least a small part of Brown that wants to still be on the bench.
“I do (miss coaching), I didn’t expect to give it up the way I did, but I just ran out of steam,” Brown said. “So I miss it and I’m feeling better and it is what it is.”
With so many memories for Brown to choose from in his 56 years coaching at Centralia, he enjoyed each and every season, regardless of the outcome.
“It really is a great collection of memories, some years maybe a little better because of certain things, but even the losing seasons, which we shared some of those, they were special too, especially if players were eager to learn and play,” Brown said.
Brown took over at Centralia in 1961 and retired midway through the 2016-17 season due to health concerns.
The festivities began in the afternoon, where a few people spoke in front of a packed classitorium. Centralia Principal Josue Lowe shared some of his fond memories about working with Brown.
“To give you a little insight to how that compares to Ron’s career, my 12 years here, which seems like a long time, is roughly 20 percent of Ron’s head coaching career at Centralia High School,” Lowe said. “…An excellent coach is hard to find, difficult to part with and impossible to forget. Those words never rang truer than in the context of describing coach Ron Brown.”
Wes Peters, who played for Brown in the 60’s and is a 1966 graduate of Centralia, shared his time scrimmaging with Brown and his comparison to Dick Clark.
“Ron has always been compared to Dick Clark because he never ages. I think what’s more important to me was his youthful mind and spirit,” Peters said. “It sets him apart from all the others. He was able to relate to kids in the past as well as today….I think his greatest attribute is being a mentor and a role model to the thousands of student athletes throughout his career.”
Western Washington University head coach Brad Jackson spoke at the ceremony, talking about the lessons he learned from Brown to help him in his coaching career.
“Basketball for Ron was a tool to help him become the ultimate educator. Sometimes unsung I’m sure, coming in day after day, teaching, working with kids, just an incredible, amazing accomplishment,” Jackson said. “…his commitment is unsurpassed. True greatness or success always has sustained excellence. Regardless of the record that Ron’s team had, and he had some great ones, but regardless…they always produced team’s at Centralia High School under his leadership that exhibited excellence.”
Jackson said he thought Brown was one of the nation’s all-time great coaches at any level of coaching.
For many players, it was more than just Brown’s help on the court. It was about how his coaching helped his players succeed in life.
“His genuine and deep interest in each individual and their well being is probably the thing that I treasure the most in terms of my relationship with Ron,” Jackson said. “It’s the foundation of what he did.”
Former NBA star and Centralia High School player Detlef Schrempf recorded a video message for Ron, congratulating Brown on his career.
“I remember very well the night you picked me up at the airport in your VW van,” Schrempf said. “The decision to come play for you was life changing and without any regrets. Well, maybe that one time in the state tournament when I missed a dunk and you were pretty upset, but we won anyways.”
Brown was invited on stage to end the presentation to say a few words and received a standing ovation as he approached the podium. Brown talked about the support from the town of Centralia and his many coaching memories.
“What a wonderful career I’ve had, in my opinion, because of you, the people of Centralia. God bless you for putting up with me,” Brown said. “We’ve had our up and down seasons as towns like Centralia do, but you have backed the program and allowed me to continue what I’ve loved doing and that’s coaching.
…It’s just been a wonderful ride and players that have shown up here today that I’ve gotten to wave at or shake their hand for a minute, you’re all so special to me.”
The social and JV game followed the presentation in the classitorium leading up to the halftime ceremony during the Centralia-Tumwater varsity game, where Brown waited out of the limelight until he walked to center court one more time and gave a wave to the fans as they stood and applauded Brown’s tremendous career.
With coaching and the ceremony over, what does Brown plan on doing now?
“I have no plans,” he said. “Get my couch with my blankey over me, I think, is probably what I’ll do.”