Former LSU basketball head coach Dale Brown knows a thing or two about March Madness.
During a quarter of a century (1972-97) as head coach, he led LSU to 15 straight postseason berths, including 13 appearances in the NCAA tournament and two to the NIT. While he was never able to win a national championship, he took his 1980-81 and 1985-86 teams to the Final Four.
He retired from coaching in 1997, but he still follows the game closely. I had a conversation with him last week, and he gave me his predictions for this year’s teams that will make it to New Orleans.
His first two selections, Kentucky and Ohio State, were expected. But the other two, Baylor and Vanderbilt, were somewhat surprising, although Vanderbilt upset No. 1 Kentucky in Sunday’s SEC championship game and Baylor reached the championship game of the Big 12 tournament before falling to No. 5 Missouri.
Brown made those picks before the bracket was released. Kentucky and Baylor were both placed in the South Region, while Ohio State and Vanderbilt both went to the East.
Since retiring from coaching, Brown has kept busy as a motivational speaker and author. I recently finished reading his latest book, “Getting Over the Four Hurdles of Life,” and it is one I would highly recommend.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from Romans 5:3-5. It states, “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who he has given us.” To me, getting over the four hurdles parallels that scripture.
In the book, Brown chronicles some of the challenges faced by such people as Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich and Elvis Presley. This is not a sports book, but rather a book about the human spirit and some of the things prominent people, athletes included, had to overcome to be successful.
Take, for example, Shaquille O’Neal. As a ninth-grader, O’Neal was cut from his high school basketball team because the coach said he was “too slow, too clumsy, and his feet were too big.” Was that coach ever wrong? O’Neal went on to become an All-American at LSU for Brown and have a hall-of-fame career in the NBA.
Brown introduced me to O’Neal during the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis, and I have never met a man, before or since, with as big a pair of hands than he has.
How about Elvis? He was told his voice was not good enough for a professional singing career. Albert Einstein was called a “dopey one” and a slow learner. And Pete Maravich, with all the success he had in basketball, contemplated suicide during his illustrious career.
The four hurdles Brown lists:
“I can’t and you can’t do this or that.”
“Past failures and/or fear of failure-obstacles that can paralyze us into inaction and stop us dead in our tracks.”
“Handicaps, whether physical, psychological, financial or career based.”
“Lack of self knowledge -- for many, the most difficult hurdle to get over. Do we really know who we are?”
Brown’s personal story, outlined early in the book, is compelling. He overcame extreme poverty and a feeling of insecurity as a youth to become one of college basketball most successful coaches.
Writing the “Four Hurdles” was an easy task for the longtime coach. He converted a speech he gives into a book. It is an enjoyable read.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org