Ron Brown had a tremendous impact on those who knew him — whether through basketball, family or other interests.
Ron died last week at the age of 58 — after more than 25 years dealing with kidney failure and its insidious side effects.
Courage and bravery are most often measured in terms of a soldier’s performance in war. For Ron, the battlefield was his own body and the enemy was kidney disease.
Ron Brown was the toughest, most courageous man I have ever known.
Ron was a devoted husband and father. His wife Shelly, sons Scott, Todd and Nate, and granddaughter Amelia (Brown) were his most prized treasures.
Their mere mention seemed to whisk Ron’s mind away from the pain and discomfort that plagued him after years of kidney failure.
Admittedly, neither I nor most of Ron’s friends had any concept of what he was going through. Shelly confided after his passing that he suffered terribly, especially in recent years, as renal failure took its toll.
Sometimes it was evident talking to Ron on the phone that he wasn’t feeling well. You could hear it in his voice.
Other times, his energy and enthusiasm were enough to make you forget he was sick at all.
In basketball circles, Ron was respected as a taskmaster and tactician. He demanded that his players exhibit respect for him, their opponents, game officials and everyone around them.
Ron is perhaps best known as a proponent of the “Shuffle” offense, which is designed to lull opponents to sleep and create high-percentage shots. He even wrote a book about it.
Ron loved working with young people and coaching basketball gave him that opportunity. He developed lasting relationships with many players, who appreciated his coaching prowess and personality.
Ron lived his life on a constant crusade for sportsmanship in basketball and all sports — at every level. Integrity was important to him, as he had been brought up by his parents, Doug and Ana, to embrace doing the right thing.
Taking advantage of his expansive vocabulary and knowledge, Ron turned to writing when he was physically unable to continue coaching. He wrote several books, all of them centered on basketball, including “Simply the Best: The Cindy Blodgett Story.”
When he wasn’t writing books, he was contributing to the Bangor Daily News. Ron’s “Time Out” column spanned more than 11 years and two different stints.
Brown found a niche with Time Out, which often focused on his experiences in sports as a youngster and the people who influenced him. He also used the space as a platform to point out injustices in sports.
I think Ron really enjoyed his time in the spotlight, whether as a teacher, coach or author. Even when he felt his worst, he remained motivated to provide insight on many issues.
Ron had been ill ever since I first met him in 1983. He was teaching English and coaching ball at John Bapst and I was a young reporter trying to learn the business.
The BDN covered Ron’s initial struggles with renal failure and I helped document his 1990 kidney transplant, an event he used to publicize his disease and the dire need for more organ donors.
Ron’s transplanted kidney lasted some nine years. His will to live and the dedication of his doctors and nurses helped keep him alive for another 10.
Ron realized how fortunate he had been to hold the disease at bay all those years. Several years ago, he told the BDN he had, “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.”
Ron relied heavily on his faith to help him get through the darkest, most difficult times. He had some moving religious experiences during the last three years of his life that eased his pain and anguish.
Every coach, at some point, finds himself in a game that cannot be won — in spite of the best efforts.
Ron fought long and hard, against long odds, to beat kidney failure. He had applied the “full-court press,” utilizing all possible medical options, yet was exhausted and besieged by excruciating pain.
Being an astute, poised coach, Ron called off the press. With the outcome decided, he graciously accepted defeat and let the clock run out.
Ron’s coaching days are over, but the lessons he taught, the wisdom he imparted, the sportsmanship he demonstrated and the friendship he shared will be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to experience it.