Dale Brown (basketball)

Dale Brown (basketball)

Dale Duward Brown (born October 31, 1935 in Minot, North Dakota) is the winningest coach in LSU men's basketball history and led the Tigers to Final Four appearances in 1981 and 1986. He coached the team for one quarter of a century. He is also remembered as one of the most vocal critics of the NCAA because he felt they legislated against human dignity.

Life in North Dakota: 1935-64

Brown was a star football, basketball, and track performer at St. Leo's High School in Minot, graduating in 1953. During his senior season, he posted the highest scoring average in state basketball history and also set a school record in the quarter mile.

Brown then went to Minot State Teacher's College, where he was a star athlete, earning 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, and track. He and former NFL quarterback Randy Hedberg are the school's only athletes with that achievement. (Hedberg played baseball in lieu of track.)

Brown graduated from Minot State in 1957 and received a masters degree at the University of Oregon in 1964.

1957-59 : Head Coach Basketball, Wrestling, and Track - Columbus H.S. - Columbus, ND

1959-64 : Head Basketball Coach - Bishop Ryan High School - Minot, ND

1961 - Called back to military service due to Berlin Crisis, Head Coach Basketball and Track - Fort Riley, KS (received an honorable discharge from US Army as a Sgt.)

He is a member of the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Leaving North Dakota: 1964-72

1964-65 : Jr. High School Basketball Coach - Garfield Junior High School (renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School)- Berkeley, California

1965-66 : Head Basketball Coach - Palm Springs H.S. - Palm Springs, California

1966-71 : Asst. Basketball Coach - Utah State University - Logan, Utah

1971-72 : Asst. Basketball Coach - Washington State University - Pullman, Washington

Taking the LSU Job: 1972

He came to LSU in 1972, replacing Press Maravich as head coach. The LSU program had received great notoriety during the Press Maravich era because of his All-American son, Pete. In spite of the publicity, however, LSU was still a losing program, making no NCAA basketball tournaments and one NIT appearance (third place) during the Maravich Era. Brown took over a team that finished 10-16 in the 1971-1972 season and a program which had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1954 and had only four winning seasons in 18 years prior to his arrival.

In 25 years prior to Brown, LSU won 288 games and had been to only 2 NCAA Tournaments. During his 25 years, LSU won 448 games and appeared in 13 NCAA Tournaments.

Early Years: 1972-78

Brown had a winning record in his first season at LSU and he was voted as SEC Coach of the Year. The Tigers finished 14-10, with a 9-9 record in the Southeastern Conference. In his first home game, the Tigers beat #11 Memphis State 94-81, who went on to become NCAA Runner-Up. The Tigers were picked to finish last in the SEC but shocked everybody by finishing 5th.

The Tigers regressed in the win/loss column during Brown's next three years at LSU. In each of those seasons, the Tigers had a losing record. However, LSU stuck with Brown, who was quickly developing a reputation for his tireless efforts to promote college basketball in the football-hungry state of Louisiana.

Former Nicholls State University head basketball coach Don Landry, a colleague of Brown in Louisiana, fondly remembered Brown's early years in a 2005 newspaper article:

"As soon as he was hired he started traveling the state and giving out nets. Wherever there was a basketball goal, he would stop and introduce himself as the new coach at LSU and hand out nets. I had never heard of such a thing and I really looked forward to meeting him after learning how hard he worked, how aggressive he was and how conscious he was of spreading the word about basketball in this state."

It was this great intensity and focus that helped Brown win over LSU fans, players and recruits. He also developed a reputation for being a powerful and inspirational speaker. These traits helped Brown earn the nickname that stuck with him throughout his tenure at LSU, "The Master Motivator."

Brown's hard work began paying off in the win/loss column in the 1976-1977 season. Led by the emergence of freshman Durand "Rudy" Macklin, the Tigers finished with a 15-12 record that year. In 1977-1978, LSU was led again by Macklin, now a first-team all-conference selection. The team finished 18-9, and was 12-6 in the Southeastern Conference, including a thrilling 95-94 overtime victory over eventual national champion Kentucky with all five LSU starters fouling out of the game.

Glory Years: 1979-81

In the 1978-1979 season, Dale Brown's Tigers dramatically improved their record, in spite of losing Rudy Macklin to injury. Led by all-conference first team members DeWayne Scales and Al Green, LSU finished 23-6. The Tigers also finished 14-4 in the SEC, giving LSU its first conference championship and first NCAA tournament appearance in 25 years. LSU made it to the Sweet 16 of the 1979 NCAA tournament, but lost to Michigan State 87-71 without star player DeWayne Scales who was suspended for the tournament for violating team rules. The Spartans, led by Magic Johnson, went on to win the National Championship.

Macklin returned to the team for the 1979-1980 season. With Macklin and Scales, LSU had one of the best forward combinations in the country. Macklin was a first-team all-conference selection, and Scales was a second-team selection. In addition, guard Ethan Martin emerged as a second-team selection. The Tigers improved their record again, finishing 26-6. They also finished 14-4 in conference again, and won their first-ever and still only SEC Men's Basketball Tournament. The Tigers also went one round deeper than the previous year in the 1980 NCAA tournament. This year, they lost in the Elite 8 to Louisville. Like Michigan State the year before, Louisville (led by Darrell Griffith) went on to win the National Championship.

The Tigers improved again in the 1980-81 season. In fact, it would be the winningest year in LSU history. This year, Dale Brown took his team to the Final Four, the second in LSU history, and the first of the Dale Brown era. The team finished 31-5 (most wins in the nation) and won the conference championship with a 17-1 record. The team also set a school record winning 26 straight games, including its first 17 conference games and the only SEC team to ever win 17 consecutive league games in the same season with only a loss to powerhouse Kentucky in Rupp Arena stopping LSU from becoming the only team to complete an 18-game SEC slate with an unblemished mark. Rudy Macklin was an All-American, as well as First Team All SEC. Ethan Martin also made First Team All SEC, and Howard Carter made the Second Team. LSU advanced to the Final Four by beating Wichita State 96-85 in the Elite 8 round of the 1981 NCAA tournament, played in front of home-state fans in the Louisiana Superdome. To reach the regional final, LSU defeated future SEC rival Arkansas, coached at the time by Eddie Sutton, who would tangle with Brown for four seasons at Kentucky.

Unfortunately for Brown and the Tigers, Macklin was injured in the Wichita State game and was not 100 percent for the Final Four. The Tigers lost in the national semifinal Game 67-49 to Indiana. In addition, for the third year in a row, LSU was eliminated by the eventual national champion, as Indiana (led by Isiah Thomas) won it all. Dale Brown was named College Basketball Coach of the Year for his team's performance.

LSU also lost the 3rd place game (to Virginia, 78-74) in this Final Four. The 3rd place game was abandoned after this NCAA basketball tournament, thus, giving LSU the perhaps unwanted distinction of being the last team to lose two games in a single NCAA basketball tournament.

Disappointment and Investigation: 1982-85

Like many other teams that reach the Final Four with a senior superstar, Dale Brown's Tigers experienced a decline in the next two years. LSU still had star players in Howard Carter and Leonard Mitchell, but the team would not make the NCAA tournament in 1982 and 1983. The Tigers finished 14-14 and 19-13 in those years, and were invited to the NIT in both seasons but lost in the first round.

Brown got the team back on track in the next two seasons, but these years proved to be even more frustrating. The next wave of star players had emerged. Among them were Jerry "Ice Man" Reynolds, Derrick Taylor, Nikita Wilson, Don Redden and John Williams (Dale Brown's most celebrated recruit to date). The Tigers had improved regular seasons, finishing 18-11 in 1983-1984 and 19-10 in 1984-1985. The 84-85 team also won the Southeastern Conference championship with a 13-5 record. However, both seasons ended with tremendous disappointments. In 1984, the Tigers were upset by #10-seed Dayton 74-66. 1985 was even more embarrassing for the Tigers. LSU was a #4-seed going into the 1985 NCAA tournament, but were beaten badly by #13-seed Navy (led by a then-unknown David Robinson) 78-55.

It was also during this time that Dale Brown began having some of his most notorious run-ins with the NCAA. Brown became an outspoken and relentless critic of the NCAA, calling them "hypocrites," and even "The Gestapo". He has consistently argued that NCAA should be more compassionate when enforcing rules governing compensation for student-athletes especially in situations involving athletes who are truly in need.

The NCAA began conducting a four-year investigation into Brown and the LSU basketball program in the early 1980s. The investigation yielded only some minor infractions. Nothing significant or shocking was uncovered, and Brown was not connected to any of the reported infractions.

"The Master Motivator": 1986-88

The 1985-86 season was well on its way to being the most disastrous season yet for Dale Brown and his Tigers. However, Brown miraculously rallied the team and turned the season into what is fondly known to many LSU fans as the greatest season in the school's basketball history. The Tigers overcame several obstacles to reach their third-ever Final Four, the second under Dale Brown.

Before the season began, Jerry "Ice" Reynolds went pro early. Incoming freshman Tito Horford was kicked off the team two months into the season. Starting center Zoran Jovanovich injured his knee in December. Nikita Wilson was academically ineligible after the fall semester. Brown was forced late in the season to move shooting guard Ricky Blanton to starting center. In addition to all these troubles, some LSU players contracted chicken pox during the Southeastern Conference regular season, including star player John Williams. In spite of all these troubles, LSU jumped out to a 14-0 start,and finished with a 22-11 record.

LSU made it into the 1986 NCAA tournament as an 11-seed. Some people were critical of the inclusion, arguing that a slumping team with 11 losses did not deserve an at-large bid. But thanks in part to an unusual, confusing defense Brown devised, which he called the "Freak Defense," the Tigers overcame their lack of talent and depth to make an unlikely run. After a double-overtime upset victory over #6 seed Purdue, LSU had to beat the top three seeds in its region to reach the Final Four. The Tigers did just that, defeating #3 seed Memphis State in the second round (on a last-second shot by Anthony Wilson), #2 seed Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16, and top seed Kentucky (which had already beaten LSU three times that year) in the Elite 8. The Tigers, however, lost to #2 seed Louisville; 88-77, in the National Semifinals and finished with a 26-12 record. Louisville went on to win the National Championship. LSU's 1986 team is remembered as the first 11-seed to reach the Final Four, and the only team to beat the top three seeds to get there. George Mason reached the Final Four as an 11-seed in 2006, but did not beat the top three seeds (although the Patriots' feat of defeating a participant in the previous year's Final Four, the defending national champions and a top seed is quite impressive).

The 1986-87 season was almost a carbon copy of the previous season, except that Dale Brown finished just seconds away from taking LSU to another Final Four. The Tigers lost Don Redden and Derrick Taylor to graduation, Williams went pro, and Blanton was lost for the season with knee surgery. The Tigers were forced to rely on role players and overachievers. The team lost 14 games during the season, but reached the 1987 NCAA tournament as a #10 seed. LSU won the first game of the tournament in an upset over #7 seed Georgia Tech. Next, LSU beat #3 seed Temple and #2 seed DePaul. That set up a showdown with top-seed Indiana in the Elite 8. LSU was in control for most of the game, and had a 9-point lead with 5 minutes remaining. But Indiana mounted a furious comeback, and defeated LSU in a 77-76 heartbreaker. The Hoosiers won the National Championship; it was the fifth time in 9 years that Dale Brown's Tigers were eliminated by the eventual national champion.

The remarkable 1987 season saw LSU give Kentucky its worst defeat ever in Rupp Arena,76-41. From 1978-1992, the Tigers had great success against the Wildcats, defeating them 17 times in this 15-year span.

LSU struggled again during the 1987-88 regular season. The Tigers entered the 1988 NCAA tournament with a 16-13 record, barely making the field again, this time as a #9-seed. By now, many LSU fans were not concerned about the poor regular season, as they now just figured that Brown would easily engineer another Cinderella run. But Brown ran out of miracles this time, as the Tigers lost to Georgetown in the first round 66-63 on a last-second shot. In spite of the disappointment in 1988, Dale Brown had already established his reputation as the "Master Motivator;" he was now considered a coach who could get the best out of his least-talented teams through inspiration, sheer will, and the "Freak Defense."

Underachieving With Superstars: 1989-93

Dale Brown reached the Final Four with a talented, veteran team in 1981. He then made it again with a team of mostly overachievers in 1986. Now, he finally had the opportunity to see what he could do with bona fide superstars. Unfortunately for Brown, these years arguably proved to be the most disappointing of his LSU career. It was during these years that the "Master Motivator" label backfired on him. By the end of the 1992 season, Brown was now known as a coach who could get the most out of his least talented teams, but didn't get the best results with NBA caliber talent. However, four of these stars left school early to play pro ball,so that assumption is not totally fair.

Chris Jackson, Stanley Roberts and Vernel Singleton came to LSU in 1988-89 (Roberts was not eligible to play that season.) Shaquille O'Neal and Maurice Williamson (son of NBA and ABA star John Williamson) came in 1989-90. Jamie Brandon committed to LSU in 1991-92. Future NBA first-round choice Geert Hammink was Shaq's backup at center before becoming an all-conference player in 1993. Of these recruits, Jackson, Roberts, O'Neal and Brandon were McDonald's All Americans. Jackson, a sophomore, and freshmen Roberts and O'Neal only played one year together. Had that talented group stayed together LSU would have had another run at a national title.

Jackson was the first of these recruits to become a star. He exploded on the scene to become an All-American in his freshman year. He was the leading scorer in the nation and still holds the record for a Freshman,averaging 30.2 points a game. Jackson and Blanton led LSU to a 20-win season in 1989. The Tigers, however lost in the first round of the 1989 NCAA tournament to UTEP 85-74.

In terms of player talent, the 1989-90 team was the best Dale Brown ever assembled. The roster included 4 future first-round NBA picks (Jackson, Roberts, O'Neal and Hammink), and two of them (Jackson and O'Neal) were current or future All-Americans. The team started the season ranked #2, but failed to meet those lofty expecations by the end of the season. Jackson was named All-American for the second year in a row, and the Tigers finished a very respectable 23-9.They had some big wins against UNLV 107-105, Texas 124-113, Loyola Marymount 148-141, Kentucky 94-81, and Notre Dame 87-64. However, LSU lost a heartbreaker in the second round of the 1990 NCAA tournament to Georgia Tech; 94-91. Tech led by future NBA players Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, Malcom Mackey and Brian Oliver went on to the Final Four.

After the season, Jackson went on to the NBA and Roberts left to play pro ball in Europe. Their departures allowed O'Neal to blossom into a superstar. He would be named an All-American in 1991 and 1992, and was the 1991 National Player of the Year. He also helped lead LSU to a Southeastern Conference championship in 1991. The 1991 team won 20 games and the 1992 squad won 21 but both seasons ended in disappointment. LSU lost badly to Connecticut with an injured O'Neal in the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament; 79-62. In the 1992 NCAA Tournament, LSU lost in the second round to Indiana; 89-79. During O'Neal's 3 years at LSU the Tigers won 72% of SEC games, won one SEC conference title and finished second twice.

O'Neal left after the 1991-92 season, but LSU still won 22 games in 1992-93. The Tigers were now led by Hammink and Brandon. But as had become the custom in recent years, LSU lost early in the 1993 NCAA tournament. This year, the Tigers were eliminated by California and its superstar freshman, Jason Kidd,on a last second shot, 66-64 in the first round. In spite of all the talent and five straight 20-win seasons between 1988 and 1993, Brown failed to get any of these teams to the Sweet 16. In fact, the 1993 NCAA tournament appearance would be the last post-season appearance of the entire Dale Brown era.

Mediocrity and the Lester Earl Incident: 1994-97

Dale Brown's final four years at LSU were mostly forgettable. All four seasons ended in losing records. Brown was still bringing talented players into the program, but things did not work out due to the loss of numerous star players because of injuries, dimissal from the team, or leaving early for the NBA.

In 1993-94 Brown brought in two more McDonald's All Americans: Randy Livingston and Ronnie Henderson. Livingston's LSU career was limited to 29 games. Serious knee injuries kept him from becoming the superstar he was projected to be; he was forced to go pro early before knee problems made him completely undraftable. Henderson had a good career, but had few good players to help him out. Former Memphis star Sylvester Ford joined the team in 1995, but he injured his knee early and was eventually dismissed from the team.

In 1996-97 Dale Brown brought in his last star recruit: Baton Rouge high school phenom Lester Earl. Earl lasted 11 games at LSU before he was suspended. He transferred to the University of Kansas soon afterward. While at Kansas, Earl said that an LSU assistant coach gave him money when he was at LSU. The NCAA quickly began an investigation. It found no evidence that Brown or his assistants paid Earl. However, it did find that a former booster paid Earl about $5,000 while he was attending LSU. LSU was placed on probation in 1998.

The probation remains a sore subject for many people in Louisiana. Many Brown and LSU supporters were angry with the NCAA's decision. They were convinced that the NCAA unfairly came down hard on LSU only because Dale Brown had long been a thorn in its side. They were also angry that Earl received immunity, never had to repay the money, and would eventually regain the eligibility he lost when he transferred from LSU. In September 2007, Lester Earl made comments that suggest that the witch hunt theory may have been true (see "Retirement from LSU").

Brown announced his retirement halfway through the 1996-1997 season, which would be effective at the end of the year.

Retirement from LSU: 1997

After his departure from LSU, Dale Brown kept a low profile in his involvement with LSU athletics. He stayed in Baton Rouge after his retirement and created his own business, Dale Brown Enterprises. Brown has also worked as a college basketball analyst and is a motivational speaker and author of several books.He is also the CEO of the Dale Brown Foundation established in 1986 to help those in need. The Foundation was very active after the hurricanes devastated Louisiana in 2005.

In 2001, reports surfaced that Brown was considering running for the United States House of Representatives in North Dakota. Republicans in the state tried to persuade Brown to challenge incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy, but he decided against it. Two years later his name surfaced again, this time as a potential candidate to run for the United States Senate in 2004 against incumbent Democrat Byron Dorgan. After several trips to Washington,D.C.,he decided not to run. Dale Brown suffered a stroke on April 24, 2003. Brown made a strong recovery and was back at work a month later.

In 2004, former LSU athletic director and basketball player Joe Dean, who announced many LSU games as a television color commentator during Brown's tenure as a coach and later selected Brown's successor, John Brady, submitted a letter to a Baton Rouge newspaper saying that he believes that the basketball floor at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center should be named after Brown. In addition, LSU honored Brown and his 1986 team in February on the 20th anniversary of their improbable run to the Final Four. Many fans consider Brown to be one of the best human beings and better coaches they have seen in the college ranks.

In the summer of 2007, Brown appeared on the ABC show Shaq's Big Challenge to offer words of encouragement to Shaquille O'Neal about helping obese children. He also was an advisor to Matthew McConaughey, who played the role of a coach in the movie We Are Marshall.

In September 2007, Lester Earl issued an apology to Brown, then-assistant head coach Johnny Jones, and LSU in general for his role in the NCAA investigation. Earl now claims that the NCAA pressured him into making false claims against Dale Brown or else he would lose years of NCAA eligibility.

"I was pressured into telling them SOMETHING. I was 19 years old at that time. The NCAA intimidated me, manipulated me into making up things, and basically encouraged me to lie, in order to be able to finish my playing career at Kansas. They told me if we don't find any dirt on Coach Brown you won't be allowed to play but one more year at Kansas. I caused great harm, heartache and difficulties for so many people. I feel sorriest for hurting Coach Brown. Coach Brown, I apologize to you for tarnishing your magnificent career at LSU."

The NCAA has declined additional comment on the situation. Brown says that he has forgiven Earl.

"The most interesting journey that a person can make is discovering himself. I believe Lester has done that, and I forgive him."

Brown has also written a book about his LSU experiences, Dale Brown's Memoirs From LSU Basketball.

Summary of Brown's 25 Years at LSU: 1972-97

He is the only SEC coach to have ever appeared in 15 straight national tournaments and only 11 coaches in NCAA history have made more consecutive NCAA appearances (10). Only the legendary Adolph Rupp of Kentucky has won more games in SEC history. Brown and Rupp are the only SEC coaches that had 17 consecutive non-losing seasons. Only 3 coaches in the SEC have won more conference championships, Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, and Tubby Smith.

Only 6 coaches in the SEC have led their teams to two Final Fours or more. They are Dale Brown, Billy Donovan, Joe Hall, Rick Pitino, Nolan Richardson, and Adolph Rupp.

On nine occasions Brown was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year or Runner-Up. He was twice chosen as the National Coach of the Year. In a 10 year span from 1977-1986, LSU is the only school to finish in the first division of the SEC. He has the distinction of beating Kentucky more than any coach in the nation. 105 of 160 of his players received their college degrees. He is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. In 2004 he was inducted as an SEC Living Legend. During Brown's era basketball rose to a level that no one could have ever possibly imagined. LSU holds the record for the 2nd,3rd, and 4th largest paid attendance for a regular season game in college basketball history.

1-20-90 Superdome - 68,112 - LSU 87 Notre Dame 64

1-28-89 Superdome - 66,144 - LSU 82 Georgetown 80

1-03-92 Superdome - 61,304 - LSU 84 Texas 83

Legendary Coach John Wooden and Billy Packer CBS television analyst paid Coach Brown a wonderful tribute about his career at LSU.

John Wooden said, "Dale did an outstanding job in raising the level of LSU basketball to the status of equality to anyone in the country. Also, if heads of states throughout this troubled world of ours had real concern and consideration for others as Dale Brown, I doubt if our racial, religious, and political problems would be a major issue."

Billy Packer stated, "Dale Brown is one of those rare individuals who has the ability to take on the toughtest of tasks regardless of the odds against success and come out a winner. He has proven to be one of college basketball's best and a fine coach and man."

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