Former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown’s story of stroke and survival

IMG_9411I had the privilege of serving as the Master of Ceremonies once again at the American Heart Association’s annual gala on Saturday. The night was filled with a fantastic array of silent and live auction items, great food, entertainment by Big Sam’s Funky Nation and a lot of money was raised for a great cause.

Former LSU head basketball coach Dale Brown, 79, was the featured speaker this year and he spoke from the heart… literally. Brown suffered a massive stroke 11 years ago and could not move. He told me he was paralyzed, but never lost consciousness. His wife took him to the emergency room and the doctor told Brown there wasn’t much hope. His carotid artery was 100% blocked and an operation would be too dangerous.

48 hours later, the artery was clear and Brown walked out of the hospital. No ill effects. Nothing. His doctors said they had never seen anything like it. An artery doesn’t just unclog. Brown called it a miracle.

IMG_9409Years later, Brown is still as sharp as ever and is an in-demand motivational speaker. Engagements across the country have filled most of his time since leaving the Tigers’ basketball team 18 years ago. Can you believe it’s been that long?

I asked him about the program that he built into a national power and the subsequent hard times it has experienced. Brown told me he absolutely believes that Johnny Jones, his former assistant, will rebuild the program and make it a national power once again. He emphasized the importance of keeping Louisiana athletes at home.

Brown still attends LSU basketball games and works out vigorously. For me, it was a treat to talk with him about the LSU teams that I grew up watching — teams that included the likes of Chris Jackson, Vernel Singleton, Stanley Roberts, Shaquille O’Neal, Geert Hammink, Clarence Caesar, T.J. Pugh and Ricky Blanton.

The winningest coach in LSU basketball history, Brown appeared in 15 straight national tournaments and is the second-winningest coach in SEC history behind Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp.

His stats:

  • 17 consecutive non-losing seasons
  • Only three coaches have won more conference championships than Brown
  • Brown won conference championships in three different decades.
  • Led his teams to two Final Fours and four Elite Eights
  • SEC Coach of the Year or runner-up nine times
  • Twice named National Basketball Coach of the Year

I hadn’t heard Dale Brown speak like he did Saturday night. I also got to share a table with him and he was a pleasure to be around. Nights like that are few and far between. If you ever get a chance to listen to him, or talk hoops with him, I highly recommend it.

 

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