They were scheduled to walk over to T.J. Ribs, adjacent to their offices, to treat former LSU athletic department staffer Linda Pourciau to lunch in appreciation for helping them manage their hectic offices. Since neither Brown nor Dean has ever been accused of being a procrastinator, they had planned to go early to beat the busy lunch crowd.
By noon, Dean and Pourciau decided to go without Brown. But they knew it was unusual for the retired coach, international traveler and much-in-demand motivational speaker to not show up. They had talked twice in the last 24 hours to confirm their plans.
At the restaurant, Dean told restaurant manager and former Brown player Joe Costello that Brown was late but still expected. After a quick lunch, Dean walked back to his office anticipating a message from Brown explaining his absence, and began trying to reach him at home.
By 1:30, Costello walked over to Dean's office to report that Brown had also failed to show for a second lunch meeting at the restaurant, this one with a former player's agent.
By now, the phones were buzzing as word spread like lightening through Brown's close friends that Vonnie Brown had noticed her husband's speech slurring just as he was leaving home. She called one of the LSU team doctors who immediately drove to their home, recognized his symptoms and rushed him to the hospital.
By early afternoon, calls from across the country were coming in with former Brown assistant and current North Texas Head Coach Johnny Jones breaking the news to Dean that Brown had suffered a stroke. Rumors were rampant. Shocked friends began arriving at the hospital, but the very private Vonnie Brown had requested no visitors and no statements by the hospital.
By early the next morning, every major news outlet in the country was calling for news on Dale Brown, as reports of his stroke crawled across the ESPN screen all night. Everyone agreed his April 9 appearance on "The Best Damned Sports Show Period" was vintage Brown.
During his 25 years as head basketball coach at LSU, Brown led the Tigers to two Final Four appearances and four Southeastern Conference titles. Along the way, he turned a football-crazy state into basketball country by recruiting players like Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson.
When he decided to retire in 1997, Brown had many more mountains to climb and fans were ready for new blood. It was a priority for Dean that Brown retire in his own way, deserving to exit the game with class.
Later, Brown urged Dean to open his consulting business in the office adjacent to his when Dean retired as LSU athletic director in 2000.
Brown and Dean have enjoyed a friendship that has lasted more than 30 years based in their mutual love for basketball. Together, they know virtually every basketball coach and top administrator in college sports in America. Their offices have become a favorite stop for all those they mentored along the way.
Because some fans never understood him, they often questioned Brown's sincerity. But since his retirement, outside of the spotlight, he has continued a steady pace of caring passionately about everything from his home state North Dakota – even briefly considering moving back to run for the U. S. Senate when locals tried to recruit him – to the war in Iraq, wishing aloud that he could parachute into Afghanistan to help search for Osama bin Laden.
Imagine a basketball coach from Baton Rouge, La., working alongside Mother Teresa in India. It happened.
Imagine one who knows where every one of his former players is today, and quietly continues to help many of them find success in their lives.
Give Dale Brown credit – where others delight in being spectators, he gives it all for the game of life.
Brown is home now, recovering with his speech and strength returning. He still must deal with the problems that caused his stroke, and doctors have ordered a four to six week period of rest and recuperation. But signs are good that he will bounce back just as he did when a rare flesh-eating bacteria hospitalized him shortly after his retirement.
Brown will be back in his office fielding phone calls, writing the President and laughing with Dean about the absurdity the cloaking of power brings to some people.
For everyone who ever enjoyed a minute of LSU Basketball – from "The Hustlers", to the stars, to the Superdome crowds, to the endless causes – remember Brown in your thoughts and prayers for a complete and speedy recovery.
If ever a person would believe in the power of your positive thoughts, it's Dale Brown.
You can send get-well wishes to Coach Dale Brown at 2354 South Acadian Thruway, Suite E, Baton Rouge, LA 70808 or phone his office at (225) 387-2233. He is receiving his messages daily.
Rannah Gray can be reached at Business-Side@cox.net.
Brown recovering from stroke
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