With that said, I have only been in Baton Rouge since 2001. By the time I reached the capitol city, the Lester Earl/Dale Brown/NCAA sanction topics had already been hashed and re-hashed by newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs.
Brown, who orchestrated one of college basketball's greatest dynasties throughout the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, was vilified for an unspeakable chain of events that tarnished his twilight years at the helm of the LSU basketball program. As Daddy Dale's tenure as the Tigers' long-time mentor came to gloomy end, Brown sunk into obscurity, almost exile as LSU's storied program was ravaged by NCAA sanctions in the early years of the John Brady era.
The scandal surrounding Earl, the LSU hoops program, money-changing hands and Earl's flight to Kansas shrouded the Tigers' basketball program in a miserable funk. Brady has spent the better half of a decade trying to re-vive this one proud tradition and has been battered from each side while doing so. Seven years of highs and lows for Brady has drawn a line in the sand for Tiger basketball followers as many have chosen different sides of the fence to ride.
Despite the drama of the late 1990s in LSU basketball history, it is somewhat difficult to say this, in the words of LSU head coach Nick Saban, "it is time to move on." It is time to put to rest the resentment, the animosity, all of the negativity toward Brown, his former players and everyone involved in that situation.
I cannot fully understand the magnitude of the statement, which I just made, but if LSU hoops are to ever re-gain the status of the halcyon days of the 1980s (for which all Tigers fans long), this issue, this festering sore must be cauterized if the program is to move forward toward consistent prosperity.
While Brady and his teams have enjoyed their moments (the 2000 SEC title, a win over No. 1 Arizona, a handful of postseason tournament appearances), there is still a sense of the shame and the sins of the past that need to fully be lodged where they belong – in the past.
LSU honored Brown Sunday in a halftime ceremony commemorating his achievements as the Tigers long-time coach. A banner was hung in the rafters of the Maravich Center, the "Deaf Dome," as it was known during Brown's tenure, near the retired jerseys of former LSU greats Shaquille O'neal, Pete Maravich and Bob Pettit.
In this writer's opinion, the honor was well deserved and long overdue. While some (maybe many) may disagree with my feelings, this gesture is a tribute to an institution in the history of college basketball. Although Brown's accomplishments may be overshadowed by the tainted ending to his stay at LSU, this acknowledgement is to a man who put Tiger hoops on the map, a man who molded LSU basketball into one of the nation's most ferocious powers for more than a decade.
Several people feel differently about what Brown stand for, many feel the North Dakota native deserves his place in exile as the man who shamed LSU basketball. Many disgruntled callers expressed their feelings on Baton Rouge talk radio stating LSU's hand was forced by the SEC to pay tribute to Brown. Many said they would boycott the LSU-Kentucky game in protest of the salute to Brown. In this writer's opinion - SHAME ON YOU!
Although much resentment was built toward Brown's alleged wrongdoings, if you cannot let by-gone's be by-gone's for one afternoon to recognize one of the great coaching legends in college basketball, you need to re-evaluate your status as a true Tiger fan.
The Brown situation at LSU draws similar parallels to other controversial sports figures including Bobby Knight, Pete Rose, Woody Hayes, Jerry Tarkanian, Paul "Bear" Bryant and Adolph Rupp. While all of these sports figures in some way shamed their sports programs or performed some act that brought ill will toward their respective institutions of teams, their accomplishments have all been duly noted and have been recognized for what they accomplished in long and storied careers.
Knight was an abusive and explosive leader at the head of the Indiana basketball program. While many despise the brashness of Knight and the administration at IU fought tooth and nail to rid themselves of the cancer they felt was Knight, you will be hard pressed to find a player or Hoosier student that did not respect the accomplishments of what Knight brought to Indiana.
Same goes for Bryant.
While the Bear was beloved by everyone in Tide-land, the old-school ball coach was a rough, tough and sometimes verbally and physically abusive type of guy.
Woody Hayes shamed Ohio State and lost his composure and punched a player when the Buckeyes were playing Clemson in a bowl game. OSU officials canned Hayes the next day and he was vilified by the national media, but he is placed somewhere right below the Lord almighty in the Buckeye state.
Adolph Rupp was categorized as a racist at Kentucky in the mid to late 1960s and Jerry Tarkanian was a proven cheater in terms of illegal recruiting at UNLV, but both are so beloved for what they did at each institution that many a Wildcat or Running Rebel fan would had issues with anyone who felt otherwise.
And finally Peter Rose.
This is a debate that can spin quickly out of control, but anyone who believes he does not belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame is out of his gourd. Rose is no proclaimed Boy Scout off the field, but what he did on the field warrants a spot in Cooperstown. I mean c'mon, that's more base hits than anybody can fathom. Nobody questioned Babe Ruth's indiscretions off the field when the Bambino was enshrined as the greatest player to ever live.
Now Dale Brown.
"The greatest recruiter who couldn't coach. The Mack Brown of college basketball. A strange old man from North Dakota who knew more about UFOs and foreign affairs than coaching college hoops." If you've heard one, you've heard them all.
But on the flip side, two NCAA Final Fours, a pair of Elite 8 appearances, four SEC championships, a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, the 1981 National Coach of the Year, 101 of 160 players (63-percent) with a college degree, 15 straight postseason tournaments, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, 448 career wins – need we say anything else?
"One of the true statesmen of college basketball," said longtime Temple head coach John Chaney.
While Brown will forever be tagged with what happened at the end of his coaching career, remember him for what he did while he was a coach. Polish the tarnish from Brown's resume and celebrate the coach for his accomplishments, not his indiscretions.