Ageless Hubie Brown reflects on lifetime achievement award, painting pictures on ESPN Radio

Basketball Hall of Famer Hubie Brown has forgotten more about basketball than most will ever know.

The legendary former coach and current ESPN NBA analyst was honored by the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) before NBA Finals Game 2 on Sunday in Oakland, Calif., as a recipient of the prestigious Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tonight from Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, the 83-year-old Brown will call the NBA Finals on ESPN Radio with Marc Kestecher and Marc Stein (Game 3, 9 ET). It’s Brown’s 16th NBA Finals as an analyst between TV and radio – the most ever for the event – and it’s his 29th full season of broadcasting.

Before the clash between the Golden State Warriors and host Cleveland Cavaliers, Front Row was able to steal a few minutes with Brown. He discusses the NBCA honor, his friendship with Daly and the fulfillment he gets from broadcasting.

Hubie Brown career notes

Here are just a few highlights of Hubie Brown’s basketball career:

  • 16th NBA Finals as an analyst (TV + Radio)
  • 29 full seasons in broadcasting
  • Two-time NBA Coach of the Year (1977-78 and 2003-04) – The longest gap between Coach of the Year nods
  • 70 years old at the time of his second Coach of the Year nod, the oldest of any coach
  • ABA Champion head coach in 1975
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee 2005 – recipient of Curt Gowdy Media Award for broadcasting excellence
  • College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee 2006

What did it mean to you to be honored with the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award?
I always say that you can never receive an award of this importance without family being strongly behind you. It’s not only my wife but my four children. You always accept the award on behalf of them who made it possible, plus the 12 assistant coaches I had in my career who made it possible – nine of whom became head coaches. It was great. To me, it meant a lot because of Chuck and our friendship, and our families’ relationship. I first met Chuck while I was coaching high school basketball in New Jersey. Later he opened up doors for me at Duke [assistant coach], and that continued to open up doors for me.

How did you feel about returning to coaching in 2003 amidst your broadcasting run and having success?
When Jerry West called, my son was the advanced scout for the Memphis Grizzlies, so I watched all of their games on television. I knew everything about the team, and we already had a relationship and friendship. When West first called Memphis was 0-8, but I was amazed at the opportunity, and I was excited because I knew everything about the team. At the time I was still running 20-30 basketball clinics around the world, so I was still in pretty good shape. When I went back, the second year we won 50 games and had the sixth or seventh-best record in the league. It was a great feeling. I won the coach of the year, and Jerry won the executive of the year.

How do you approach broadcasting compared to how you approached coaching?
It’s a different type of fulfillment. When you’re coaching you’re dealing with 15 individuals – 12 when I coached – on a daily basis. They are young with talent and every day is a teaching session. You owe it to them to stretch their potential to a level that they may not have known they could get to. That’s whether you’re in the classroom or out on the field.

As far as [broadcasting], I’ve been [in broadcasting] a long time, and I prepare for a [broadcast] the same way as I did for a game as a coach. There is a tremendous amount of action – which is dictated by the different offensive and defensive philosophies from team to team based on coaching styles.

You owe it to the fan to explain the reason why things are happening. If the game is a blowout, you should be prepared to talk about five-to-eight basketball situations within the league or management or within ownership. But, you never, ever underestimate – and forget about the ratings in the U.S. – there are [hundreds] of countries getting these games live, and you have coaches and players around the world in FIBA who want to understand why the game is being played the way that it is.