Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

July 3, 2014

Mark Maynard: Hop Brown gave us a life to remember: 7/3/14

ASHLAND — The saucy and sometimes zany characters you run across in life are always the most memorable.

In this job, I’ve had the absolute privilege of covering some of these memorable characters who routinely fed us quotes that drew a chuckle from readers.

Those one-liners were always great for the story, but when it came down to it, it was still how well did they do their job.

It’s one thing to be clever, it’s another to be successful.

Coaches who had a sense of humor about themselves or even their teams did bring some levity to the fact that, yes, it is just a game.

But fans never find losing funny.

The late John “Hop” Brown was not only a clever guy with the tongue, but also one of the best basketball coaches I’ve been around.

And he was serious when he needed to be serious with his players, fans and even the media.

But at the end of the day, he was that basketball coach who you never minded interviewing after a game. He was honest in a refreshing kind of way and you usually left his office feeling good. I always made it a point to stop by his office before the game, too. We’d share some laughs and maybe even an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” before the Lady Comets devoured their opponent (which they usually did).

His players were a lot like him when it came to toughness and knowing how to play the game. They did it his way and only his way. Hop Brown was a fierce competitor who didn’t like to lose. He found nothing funny about defeat, either.

Hop Brown was more than a coach, though. He was a husband and a father, a mentor to so many young women in Olive Hill who played basketball for  him.

That week in March 2000 when West Carter captured the girls state basketball championship is a moment the town and this area will never forget.

It’s one of the most memorable events I’ve covered for this newspaper.

A lot of the reason why was Hop Brown, who had the statewide media eating out of his hand like he had us most of the time.

Hop was simply being Hop.

When he was diagnosed with the brain cancer that eventually took his life, it was a blow to anybody who knew him.

It was a deja vu moment for me, too. My father died from the same type of brain cancer only the year before. It was almost like watching it all over again.

Hop fought hard as we knew he would, even trying to coach through some of it. Eventually, though, it took him away from us.

Seven years ago, his wife, Sharon, and Hop’s children started the Hop Brown Relay for Life Golf Scramble at Eagle Trace Golf Course in Morehead.

Gerad Parker, who married Hop’s youngest daughter, Kandi, has spearheaded the event that so far has raised $50,000 for the Relay for Life cancer research.

“It’s one of those things that puts thrills and chills in your eyes,” Parker said.

It started out at the nine-hole course at Carter Caves, but kept growing so they moved it to Eagle Trace.

Last year, there was a full field of 48 teams and this year will be 50 teams with morning and afternoon starts.

You will also get your belly full with three meals provided.

“We’ve had some of them  stay for all three meals,” Parker said. “About five guys played 36 holes last year.”

Friends of Hop have supported the cause every year of its existence. The next tournament will be a week from Saturday.

Hop would be proud of having his name on an event that benefits others. He would also be the life of the party if he could join us.

I could see him driving around in a golf cart and stopping to razz somebody at every hole. Then he’d pat you on the back and build you back up or maybe even teach you something.

“If he were alive today, we’d put him at a hole and he’d work as a celebrity,” Parker said. “He’d be the biggest fundraiser we ever had.”

Parker has much respect for his father-in-law as a coach “who could have coahed on any level of basketball” but more as a person who truly cared for others.

“You hear a lot of stories about Hop but that’s what you hear more than anything else, about how he was with people,” Parker said. “He made everybody around him feel important.

“A guy like that deserves to be remembered.”

Truly, Hop Brown will never be forgotten — at least not in these parts.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at (606) 326-2648.

 

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