My last phone conversation with Ron Brown came a couple of months ago, and was typical of chats we’d had during the last few years since I returned to the newspaper business.
He always was armed with a tidbit about a coming or going in the schoolboy basketball world, along with some reminiscing about our previous work together on MPBN telecasts of the high school basketball tournaments a few years back, or our collaboration on Maine Roundball Magazine.
Both projects were sources of great pride to Ron — and to me, too.
The high school basketball tournaments remain a signature event that bring communities together during the cold of winter, and just to be part of sharing those games with others through TV — Ron as the color analyst, myself as the sideline interviewer of coaches and mascots alike — was an opportunity we both cherished and a responsibility we both took seriously.
And when between games at the tournament one year Ron suggested developing a magazine devoted to basketball at all levels in the state, it was chance to break some new journalistic ground in these parts, so who could refuse?
Several editions were published during the late 1990s, until both of us realized just why it was new journalistic ground — because most of the people interested in reading MRM expected to get it for free. Basketball passion soon gave way to economic reality – and the magazine evolved into a Web site.
The point of these personal reflections is that while Ron Brown made his mark as a coach and writer before passing away this week at age 58, his true legacy is that of an advocate of all things basketball, and someone who could easily think beyond the typical boundaries in the best interest of advancing his chosen sport.
With wife Shelly by his side, Ron worked tirelessly on behalf of the causes in which he believed, such as the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches. He brought in such national-level coaches such as Hubie Brown and Dave Odom to give annual MABC clinics a taste of the big time, and while his efforts in strengthening that organization perhaps haven’t paid off as much as he would have liked, he continued to support that effort with as time and resources for as long as he could.
But his books, his columns for the Bangor Daily News, and his other media work all were ways to release his competitive energy beyond the scope of his primary calling, that of a teacher of sport.
There were many stops along that trail, not surprising given that Brown always seeking new challenges. Whether he was the freshman boys coach at Brewer, or a varsity coach at Machias — where he won an Eastern Maine Class D title in 1992 — or a youth coach in Sangerville, coaching was coaching.
As a semi-competent basketball relic of the former Penquis League, I always appreciated his affinity for coaching so-called small-town basketball teams despite a background that touched on the professional level with the Maine Lumberjacks — a career track that ultimately was derailed by the kidney disease that became his big-gest competition over the last 25 years.
That he continued to teach basketball without complaint through the health challenges that confined him to a wheelchair and made dialysis a fact of life represented perhaps his biggest victory of all.
For Ron Brown had a love for basketball, and no illness would prevent him from embracing that passion.
It’s a case study in determination from which we all can learn.