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Hello, Trouble, I'm Dale Brown
Gary Smith
November 18, 1985
LSU's basketball coach, the center of many a storm, is trapped by his hardscrabble past and an athletic system that he says he cannot abide
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November 18, 1985

Hello, Trouble, I'm Dale Brown

LSU's basketball coach, the center of many a storm, is trapped by his hardscrabble past and an athletic system that he says he cannot abide

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"I hung up the phone," recalls Andersen, "put a few gallons of gas in the car, and before the attendant had even handed me the change, a car came flying into the station, hit the brakes and skidded. It was Dale Brown."

Brown hopped into Andersen's rental car, went with him to see the player and delivered a stirring soliloquy to him on the wonders of a university he had never seen. He received a job offer that day.

Six years later he became head coach of basketball-dead, football-mad LSU, where an athlete in the food line had to yield his place whenever a football player approached. People chuckled at Brown's fervor. He would show them.

Every morning, when his pair of alarm clocks rang (just in case), Iwo Jima started all over again. He sat upright in bed, pulled the pencil and pad from his pajama shirt pocket and reviewed the list he had brainstormed until 4 a.m. He crisscrossed the state, knocking on doors, dodging dogs, making speeches, dispensing LSU basketball rattles to babies, LSU basketball coin purses and pot holders to women, LSU purple-and-gold nets to every kid with a backboard and rim. He mailed brochures, poems and parables with titles like "I Had a Dream" and "What Do Critics Really Know?" to janitors and hotel desk clerks, coaches and sportswriters.

No form of motivation escaped him. He quoted Socrates and Plato to his sometimes bewildered players. He had a mind-control expert come before them to bend iron. He threw shoes and kicked luggage and once grabbed a 6'8" LSU player by the shirt and shoved him, screaming, "Ya wanna hit me, don't ya?" That happened last year at Kentucky. He had his friend Dick Gregory, the comedian, and Olympian Willie Davenport give his players pep talks. He had a robot lead them onto the floor.

His approach to motivation reflected the dichotomy-of his life. He scoured newspapers from across the country for any quote he could use to make his players feel it was "us against the world." Then he would bring a man with no arms or legs to speak to them before a game to remind them they were connected to the world, responsible to it.

Once, after a crushing loss at Vanderbilt, he ordered the players back onto the floor to run three-man weave drills near midnight.

"What are you doing?" asked an onlooker.

"I'm saving America," replied Brown.

That was no small task for a basketball coach—saboteurs lurked around every corner. He assailed the media over criticism, once burning a writer's column at a postgame press conference. We'll show them. After a '78 game in which a big, physical Kentucky team thrashed LSU, he castigated the Wildcats for brutalizing the artistry of basketball. Is your team simon-pure? asked Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Billy Reed.

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