Retired Brookswood Bobcats coach Neil Brown is known for being outspoken.
“I’ve always had a short fuse,” he concedes.
But he is also known for backing his players and going the extra mile for them, two traits that have served him well as coach of multiple championship basketball teams in Langley, which led to his induction into the Basketball BC Hall of Fame this year.
Brown would have picked up his plaque at the annual awards dinner scheduled for May 9th, but that, like so many sporting events, has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting bans on large gatherings.
Brown will have to wait until next year, when there are plans to have the 2020 inductees honoured with the together with the 2021 group.
He is typically blunt about winning the award.
“It means you’re old,” he told the Langley Advance Times.
“It means you’ve had good kids.”
A lot of good kids have flourished under Brown’s direction, many introduced to the sport by the Friday Night Hoops program he ran out of Brookswood Secondary for nearly two decades.
Over the years, Brown coached 10 BC provincial championship teams, 16 Fraser Valley championship winners, plus three provincial runners-up and eight top-eight teams.
“We had a juggernaut,” he summed it up.
“It’s like a perfect storm, for 19 years.”
He started out coaching boys, then began working with junior and senior girls.
One difference he has noted is that girls tend to take criticism more personally than boys do, but they can handle pressure.
“They get comfortable being uncomfortable,” he observed.
That is his perspective both as a coach and as a dad whose two daughters have played on teams he was coaching, a fact that “caused a lot of tension,” he admitted.
It required a certain separation of roles, Brown related.
“I’m the coach [when we’re training and competing], I’m the dad outside the gym.”
He didn’t want players who were intimidated by him, appreciating independent minds who pushed back — off the field.
“If being great was just a steady climb, we’d all be great.”
If he pushed players hard to excel, and Brown did, it was because he believed in them, and he wanted them to believe in themselves.
Nominator Darrel Hauptman had been pushing to have Brown inducted since the coach first became eligible.
He and Brown were friends and teammates through their elementary and high school years in Prince Rupert, Hauptman related.
Brown was “a very good player,” Haputman recalled, a perennial high school all-star who set many tournament records.
Brown remains a dedicated student of the sport, attending coaching clinics all over North America, Hauptman noted.
“He’s a mentor, a role model, a community leader, a second dad,” Hauptman commented.
“He truly cared about his players both on and off the court. He made sure they maintained good grades. He taught life skills that will have a positive effect for a lifetime.
Hauptman shared some of the comments appended to the induction nomination filed by players and parents.
Rich Chambers, 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, said Brown’s record would “almost seem fictional, if one did not know how hard he worked to establish this unbelievable legacy.”
Former player Amber Kavanagh praised Brown for creating “a safe and inviting place for women, [and with it] a family culture, where he taught us bigger life lessons through the game we loved.”
Daughter Christina Brown, now a college player, said her father has “dedicated his life to basketball in BC and I’m proud to say I played for him.”
Daughter Jessie Brown, who plays for Trinity Western University, a B.C. basketball player of the year winner, recalled “countless teammates that he took under his wing when they were struggling with home life or any other life challenges and he used basketball to equip them with life skills.’
Kathy Brown, wife, coach and self-described “biggest fan” of her husband, said he advocated for girls basketball “more than most females in the coaching ranks.”
Tayla Jackson, former player, NCAA player and BC basketball player of the year winner, recalled Brown’s Friday Nights Hoops sessions, saying “you would see the man was really a soft-hearted guy who loves basketball and all the kids that wanted to play.”