Legendary Centralia hoops coach Ron Brown passes away


Ron Brown, who coached Centralia High School’s boys basketball team from 1961 to 2017, passed away early Friday morning, according to friends of the legendary coach. 

He was 90 years old. 

The educator and coach, whose longevity was surpassed only by his legendary calm on the Hub City sidelines, guided the Tigers to state basketball championships in 1979 and 1981. He was inducted into the Washington State Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. The Centralia High School’s gym floor was named in his honor in 2008.

Brown won 722 games as a head coach, currently third on the state’s all-time list behind only Ed Pepple (Mercer Island) and Pat Fitterer (Ellensburg, Eisenhower, Sehome, Kentwood, Highland).

In addition to the state titles, his teams finished second, fourth, fifth, sixth (twice) and eighth (twice) at state, qualified for the state tournament another seven times and won 722 games, placing him third all-time in Washington history. 

He was twice honored as the Washington State Coach of the Year, and in 1999 he received the National Federation of Interscholastic Coaches Association Section Eight Distinguished Service Award for boys basketball, a distinction that covers six states.

Brown coached players that went on to play in the NBA (Detlef Schrempf), NFL (Calvin Armstrong) and MLB (Lyle Overbay). He famously never received a technical foul, though in a 2017 Chronicle interview he said he once came close — back in his JV coaching days, just before he took the varsity job in 1961.

 “I was angry at a call, and I think I found myself on my feet, probably with my fist in the air, and I turned down to my bench, and these kids looked like me — they were yelling and screaming and angry,” he said. “I thought, ‘My Lord, I can’t let this happen,’ and thought at the time, ‘I’m not going to be an inspiration to bad behavior.’ I just said I’m not going to do it, and I didn’t.”

Through 1,263 high school games, he kept his word. 

His former players dotted the local coaching landscape for decades after his first crop of players graduated, and he built relationships with top-tier coaches around the region — many of whom visited Centralia during the summers to help out with his annual basketball camp.

He collaborated with former players Jared Stewart and Chris Thomas to publish a book in 2022 chronicling the history of his 56 years leading the Tigers. Proceeds from the book, naturally, went to the Centralia basketball program.

​​“The total picture was more important to me than any state championship or season,” he said upon his 2017 retirement. “It was just a wonderful career — 58 years, 56 as head basketball coach, and just the way the community has treated me and my family. It’s just been a wonderful thing for all of us, I think.”