Dakota Datebook

Coach Dale Brown

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

 

If children were “trick or treating” in Minot in 1935, it’s doubtful Agnes Brown was paying much attention. Abandoned by her husband two days earlier, she gave birth on this date to their son, Dale Duward Brown. But Agnes did not feel sorry for herself. After Dale became a famous basketball coach, he recalled that she was never bitter toward the man who abandoned her. With only an eighth-grade education, she relied on welfare, babysitting and cleaning houses to make ends meet.

Observing his mother’s gentle responses to humiliation from landlords and social workers, Dale gained a sense of integrity. From his father’s abandonment, he came to value loyalty. After starring in football, basketball and track at St. Leo’s High School in Minot, Dale went on to earn twelve varsity letters in those sports at Minot State Teacher’s College, graduating in 1957. Fresh out of college, Dale taught and coached at Columbus, North Dakota. He claims he was not “born to coach,” but “just kind of wound up in teaching and coaching to make a living. And fell in love with it.”

He also fell in love with Minot State cheerleader Vonnie Ness, and they married in 1959. That fall Dale became head basketball coach at Bishop Ryan High School in Minot, after which he coached in California, followed by assistant positions at Utah State and Washington State Universities.

In 1972, he was recommended to Louisiana State University for that school’s head coaching position. Not many people wanted to coach a losing team in a place where there was so little interest in basketball. But Dale Brown never did shrink from a challenge. He was hired to coach the segregated team despite his assertion that he would not be “dictated by a kid’s ethnic status, color or religion.”

Coach Brown and his assistants pulled out all the stops to create interest in LSU basketball, recruit top-notch players, both black and white, and build a winning team. By the time he retired 25 years later, he had “discovered” Shaquille O’Neal and a number of other players who went on to play professionally. His teams won 448 games and appeared in thirteen NCAA tournaments, including two trips to the Final Four.

In retirement, Brown devotes his time to speaking and writing, still “The Master Motivator.” Happy Birthday to a great ambassador for Louisiana and North Dakota!

Dakota Datebook written by Karen Horsley

Sources:

Dale Brown (basketball) – Wikipedia

“Collected Wisdom: Former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown,” by John Helsley, www.newsok.com.

“Dale Brown,” by Don Yaeger, The Greatness Newsletter, www.donyaeger.com.

Getting Over the 4 Hurdles of Life, by Coach Dale Brown

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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