Centralia’s Ron Brown Officially Retires
VETERAN: Tiger Basketball Coach Steps Down After 56 Years on the Sidelines
By Aaron VanTuyl
The Ron Brown era in the Hub City officially came to a close on Wednesday.
Brown, Centralia’s head boys basketball coach since 1961, announced his resignation from the position in a release sent out by Centralia athletic director Scott Chamberlain.
Brown, 82, took a leave of absence in early January due to health concerns, and decided late last week that the move would be permanent — a decision that didn’t come easily.
“Mentally, I would have loved to, but I don’t know. It was just a tough decision,” he said, adding that his family was involved. “Nobody said ‘Do it, dad.’ Nobody said ‘Stay,’ but my oldest daughter said you’ll feel good once you’ve made a decision.
“After I turned in the letter I called her and said, ‘When do I start feeling good?’”
Bronchitis, along with previous heart trouble, slowed the veteran coach during the first half of the 2016-17 basketball season.
“The doctors have not been able to just wave their magic wand and say ‘be perfect again’ or ‘be well,’” he said. “They try different things, and I had a lot of hope that something would click and it hasn’t done that. I don’t want to go through what I went through last year.”
Once his leave of absence started last season, most of his time was simply spent resting.
“I sat in my chair and looked out (the window) a lot, and fell asleep a lot,” he said. “It sounds like it should be good, but then the next day I’d get up, and think, ‘What have I got to do today?’ and it was more of the same.
“I wished I were a hobby guy, building birdhouses or some dang thing,” he added. “I could go out to the shop and do something. So it’s going to be an interesting adjustment.”
He followed the progress of the Tigers, who — under interim head coach Kyle Donahue, a former player and assistant under Brown — finished the season 17-9, taking third in the District 4 tournament and qualifying for the regional playoffs.
Brown met with the team at the end of the season, though he’d decided early on he wouldn’t be attending any games.
“I told them that they played probably about what I thought they would, and did about what I thought we would do,” he said. “It was fun to see that happen, watching it, reading it, and listening to it on the radio. But it was not the most pleasant half-season for me, not to be a part of it.”
Chamberlain, in the press release, said the search for a new head coach will begin immediately. The shoes will, obviously, be hard to fill; in 56 years Brown’s teams won two state titles (1979 and 1981), finished second, fourth, fifth, sixth (twice) and eighth (twice) at state, qualified for the state tournament another seven times and won 722 games, placing him third all-time in Washington history.
He was twice honored as the Washington State Coach of the Year, and in 1999 he received the National Federation of Interscholastic Coaches Association Section Eight Distinguished Service Award for boys basketball, a distinction that covers six states. In 2006, he Brown was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and in 2008 the hardwood at Centralia High School was officially dubbed Ron Brown Court.
Brown was also famous for, in all his years on the sidelines, never receiving a technical foul. It just wasn’t his style, he explained, though he came close once — some 57 years ago, during the two years he coached the Tigers’ JV team.
“I was angry at a call, and I think I found myself on my feet, probably with my fist in the air, and I turned down to my bench, and these kids looked like me — they were yelling and screaming and angry,” he said. “I thought, ‘My Lord, I can’t let this happen,’ and thought at the time, ‘I’m not going to be an inspiration to bad behavior.’ I just said I’m not going to do it, and I didn’t.”
To be fair, though, he did get a technical foul. Two of them, in fact: one during his high school days in Forks, and one coaching summer ball.
“The high school one I deserved,” he said. The summer ball incident he attributed to bad officiating and a referee who didn’t know what else to do.
“The high school one I loved,” he admitted.
The milestones, though, haven’t been the highlight of his coaching career — which, at 56 years, is a milestone in itself.
“I certainly appreciate the fact that I’ve been able, in Centralia, to stay as long as I have, and been treated so wonderfully,” he said. “I think it’s a mark for coaches everywhere, not just me.”
He was always treated with respect, he said.
“The total picture was more important to me than any state championship or season,” he added. “It was just a wonderful career — 58 years, 56 as head basketball coach, and just the way the community has treated me and my family. It’s just been a wonderful thing for all of us, I think.”