When Dale Brown was nine years old, he set fire to the building where he worked. He didn't mean to. Something he didn't understand drove him to strike a match in the furniture warehouse and light the piece of straw sticking out from the leg of a chair. It made him feel fearless and free. Suddenly the chair was in flames and the feeling was gone. He raced into the street unnoticed, up the stairs to the family apartment just a few doors away, and into the bathroom.
He pulled down his pants, sat on the toilet and put his head in his hands, heart hammering, each scream of the sirens and every sound of the people outside intensifying his guilt. He heard his mother coming home from church, crying in anguish, "Oh, I just know he was in that building working. I know it."
Her son emerged from the bathroom, all innocence and puzzlement. "What's going on, Mom? I've been in here the whole time with diarrhea." And for months people in Minot, N. Dak. whispered that the Communists had done it.
Forty-one years passed, and Dale Brown heard the alarms ringing and the people shouting once more, this time about his conduct as LSU basketball coach. Both the FBI and the NCAA were on his campus, and the press and fans and other coaches were zeroing in on LSU and him. Where there's Dale Brown there's fire. "Everybody," says a rival SEC coach, "thinks he's cheating."
"Dale Brown is so vulnerable, they'll reopen Devil's Island if he's done anything wrong," says Al McGuire.
No longer did Brown hide when he felt threatened. He attacked. He telephoned reporters at all hours of the night to refute their stories. He cried again and again for reform of NCAA rules on scholarship athletes. He tape-recorded his phone calls and team meetings, stockpiling evidence. He threatened to reveal information that he said would buckle the country's top basketball universities.
He slapped his right biceps and demanded that the NCAA attach him to a polygraph machine in front of a roomful of witnesses. "I will resign right now if everything I've said isn't 100—ever hear a coach say this before?—100 percent honest. That's a pretty powerful statement I'm making. If the NCAA tries to nail me, I'll blow away the top 10 programs in the country. I could give them enough information [about other schools] to keep them busy for the next 2½ millennia.
"See why I want to get out of coaching? I feel like I'm in the rifle scope of an assassin. I just want to be with my friends. Where else does a 50-year-old man chase a 17-year-old athlete? That's called pimpin' and hookin'. I hate it. When I go see another basketball game and watch the coach yelling at the referee and the players, I think, 'That's me. I must look like an absolute moron.' God, I'd be so happy to be in a village in Yugoslavia, sipping wine and eating bread and cheese. Why do I beat myself to death?"
Losing at halftime, the coach followed his team off the floor of Kentucky's arena, where over the years he had been booed, taunted, pelted with ice and heated pennies. The first half had been dangerously physical. "You're going to trigger a fight!" a photographer says he called to him.
"Kill Brown!" is what the coach heard. I'll show you, he thought. He grabbed a fistful of the photographer's flesh and shirt, twisted it and pinned him to the wall. "Arrest this man! He attacked me!" he screamed.
Losing at halftime, the coach followed his team off the floor at Tennessee, where a young man in a wheelchair shouted abuse at him every year. He stomped toward the man, aching to grab him. Something stopped him; he put his arm around him instead. He found out later that the paralyzed man had no money and could not afford tuition for school.
I'll help you, he thought. Today the heckler attends LSU on scholarship and is one of Brown's statisticians.
No one understood Dale Brown. On a motivational speaking tour in South Korea in 1975, he stood on the 38th parallel and peered through binoculars at the thicket of Communist soldiers staring back through binoculars at him. "Every whisper we make here, they can pick up," a U.S. general informed him. "Really?" said Brown. He hopped onto a concrete slab and began to tap-dance and sing Tea for Two.
He so detested weakness in himself he would fill his refrigerator with Cokes just to prove he need not touch one. He stiffened and shut his door on anyone who tried to preach religion. And was so quick to dispense tape cassettes and pamphlets and poems and sermons promoting his team and his proposed NCAA rule changes and the power of positive thinking, other coaches stiffened at his presence and called him the Preacher.
When Tito Horford was being recruited by LSU and other schools, he accused Brown of offering a car and a job to his stepbrother. Brown denied it and said he wouldn't take Horford "if he crawled up the steps of the Assembly Center." A few weeks later Brown was posing for team pictures with Horford at the Assembly Center.
He was a natural speed-reader out of impatience, a line-up-changer out of impulse, a remote-control channel changer so frenetic that he drove his wife and daughter from the living room. And yet, at 50, he still lived with the same woman after 26 years, in the same house he bought 14 years ago for $38,000. Entering this, his 14th year at LSU, he had one of the longest coaching tenures in the country.
The NCAA Manual sat on top of the Bible on his end table. A song lived next to a scream in his soul.
From the moment they snipped the umbilical cord," Brown says, "I've been in the middle of controversy."
Three days after the snipping, in the midst of the Depression, Agnes Brown telephoned her husband to come to the hospital to get them. No answer. No husband. No father. All she had was the $4 in her purse. She used most of it for the taxi home.
They lived over a dingy bar and a hardware store with his two older sisters, sharing a bathroom with 20 other tenants and praying the $42.50 welfare check wouldn't run out before the month did. His mother was a timid, terrified woman, devoutly Catholic. Her heart was weak, her liver bad, her varicose veins painful. Dale winced as a welfare worker sat in their one-room apartment and harangued his sobbing mother about finding a job. He wanted to cry for his mother's helplessness and to scream at her for it.
His mother wanted him to become a priest. "At five," he says, "I became the youngest altar boy in the history of the Western hemisphere." At nine he took his first job, washing windows at a jewelry store. He would move on to other jobs as a helper in the furniture warehouse, shoeshine boy, grocery carry-out boy, ball boy, bellhop, then selling hot dogs at rodeos, shoveling manure at local farms, driving railroad spikes, driving a school bus, driving a taxi. Driving, always driving. "Every day of my life I was trying to plant a flag on Iwo Jima," he says.
Fear and guilt were the two fists on the flagpole. His mother, who showed her love by worrying over him instead of touching him, told him that if he did wrong he would go directly to hell and she might die of a heart attack. The thought haunted him. Any moment he might be totally abandoned.
He concealed his feelings with impudence. He hid in the attic of his school and haunted his class with frightening noises. He lassoed passers-by and held a water pistol to them, extorting nickels. Referees ejected him from school games for fighting; a priest ejected him from the altar for laughing.
He refused the turkey and fruit the welfare workers handed out on holidays. He packed nutmeg, vanilla and cotton in his aching tooth rather than take his welfare papers to the dentist. He would show you his laughter and his rage, but never his helplessness. "I can still feel the hurt," he winces, clutching his jaw.
He was a natural athlete, the best in his school. He used bundled mittens as balls and shot them over a pipe in the apartment hallway. When the landlady yelled at his mother that her son was scuffing the linoleum, he screamed at the landlady and scuffed it some more. "I can still feel the hurt when she yelled at my mother," he says. "I can feel it." He nursed all his hurts, did not hurry them to heal. The anger they created inside him compelled him to act, and by acting he didn't feel quite so helpless.
Two men filled part of the void left by his father: Rueben Hammond, the director of the local recreation program, and Monsignor John Hogan, the principal at his school. But he needed more. Didn't anyone understand what he was longing for? "I'd be kneeling in church, watching them all coming back from Communion, their rosaries draped over their hands and their Communion hosts stuck on the roofs of their mouths. And I would think, 'That's funny. Such good Christians, and nobody would ever take me out to play ball or take me to the Father and Son Banquet.' I can still feel it now. The hypocrites."
One day in the middle of his senior year in high school he was summoned from a classroom. A nervous, kindly looking man was waiting in the hall. "Dale," he said, "I'm your father."
"Oh, is that right?" the teenager snapped. "I'm my own grandpa." Dale turned and stalked away. A self-made man could not have a father.
Brown would not see his father again until he was 26, as a soldier at Fort Riley, Kans., when something lifted him from his bunk one sleepy weekend and sent him to the address that had branded itself on his memory since the day he had seen it on the envelope of a letter delivered to his mother: Charles A. Brown, 302 East Ash, Enid, Okla. He called ahead from a nearby drugstore, and when he stepped out of the car with an Army buddy, his father asked, "Which one of you is my son?"
"I am," said Brown. They walked off for a moment alone.
"There's one thing I don't understand," he said. "During all those years did you ever think of calling me or writing me or seeing me? I need to know. How could you do that?"
"Guilt," his father said.
And he never saw him again.
I'll show you. That became the motif of Dale Brown's life. Whom was he showing? The hypocrites at church, his father, his town, himself—he was never quite able to put a finger or a name on it. A poor, fatherless boy from the middle of nowhere could become a big-time basketball coach. He would show them. Sure, part of him always wanted to do something more important than coaching—to be an FBI agent or a lawyer. He loved to read history and philosophy. But somehow, at least for a little while, being entrusted with the lives of a dozen teenagers seemed to make the fatherless, powerless little boy in him go away.
I'll help you. That became the subtheme of his life. While he and his wife were flipping coins over which bills to pay, once borrowing $500 from a loan shark for Christmas presents, he was buying gifts for his poorest players and having one of them live in his house. His memories of his own hurts remained so extraordinarily raw, it made his sympathy for weakness spontaneous. "I wanted to gag him sometimes," says his wife, Vonnie.
I'll show you was not as far from I'll help you as it seemed. One flared when his fragile sense of power was slapped, the other when it was stroked. "If you poke me in the chest I go for your jugular," he says. "If you put your arm around me I become a pussycat."
The day he married Vonnie, he awoke praying snow would make the roads impassable. Eventually he began to trust her, to let one other person in on his secret crusade. Perhaps it was because her need for independence was nearly as powerful as his. Years later, when they could finally afford vacations, they would often take them separately. Her schedule as a folk-dance teacher and his as a basketball coach were so different they once spent seven days in their house without seeing each other.
He quit his first high school coaching job in Columbus, N. Dak. because Vonnie, then an elementary school teacher in the same district, received only a $50 yearly raise compared with $100 for the high school teachers. In his second job, he discovered that another coach was making more than he. That wasn't fair—he would show them, too.
Virtually broke, Dale and Vonnie packed their baby in a car and headed west to California, where the only coaching position he could find was at a junior high in Berkeley. He remembers one rainy day, driving his 14-and 15-year-olds to an away game in a school bus, when the flap of the windshield wipers became a repetitive chant: "Dale Brown, you're a failure, Dale Brown, you're a failure. . . ."
He found a high school job in Palm Springs and began sending out resumes, "nice win" notes and Christmas cards to college coaches. Utah State coach Ladell Andersen (now at BYU), his curiosity piqued by this stranger's persistence, telephoned Palm Springs High from a nearby gas station on his way to recruit a player.
"Wait right there," said Brown breathlessly.
"I hung up the phone," recalls Andersen, "put a few gallons of gas in the car, and before the attendant had even handed me the change, a car came flying into the station, hit the brakes and skidded. It was Dale Brown."
Brown hopped into Andersen's rental car, went with him to see the player and delivered a stirring soliloquy to him on the wonders of a university he had never seen. He received a job offer that day.
Six years later he became head coach of basketball-dead, football-mad LSU, where an athlete in the food line had to yield his place whenever a football player approached. People chuckled at Brown's fervor. He would show them.
Every morning, when his pair of alarm clocks rang (just in case), Iwo Jima started all over again. He sat upright in bed, pulled the pencil and pad from his pajama shirt pocket and reviewed the list he had brainstormed until 4 a.m. He crisscrossed the state, knocking on doors, dodging dogs, making speeches, dispensing LSU basketball rattles to babies, LSU basketball coin purses and pot holders to women, LSU purple-and-gold nets to every kid with a backboard and rim. He mailed brochures, poems and parables with titles like "I Had a Dream" and "What Do Critics Really Know?" to janitors and hotel desk clerks, coaches and sportswriters.
No form of motivation escaped him. He quoted Socrates and Plato to his sometimes bewildered players. He had a mind-control expert come before them to bend iron. He threw shoes and kicked luggage and once grabbed a 6'8" LSU player by the shirt and shoved him, screaming, "Ya wanna hit me, don't ya?" That happened last year at Kentucky. He had his friend Dick Gregory, the comedian, and Olympian Willie Davenport give his players pep talks. He had a robot lead them onto the floor.
His approach to motivation reflected the dichotomy-of his life. He scoured newspapers from across the country for any quote he could use to make his players feel it was "us against the world." Then he would bring a man with no arms or legs to speak to them before a game to remind them they were connected to the world, responsible to it.
Once, after a crushing loss at Vanderbilt, he ordered the players back onto the floor to run three-man weave drills near midnight.
"What are you doing?" asked an onlooker.
"I'm saving America," replied Brown.
That was no small task for a basketball coach—saboteurs lurked around every corner. He assailed the media over criticism, once burning a writer's column at a postgame press conference. We'll show them. After a '78 game in which a big, physical Kentucky team thrashed LSU, he castigated the Wildcats for brutalizing the artistry of basketball. Is your team simon-pure? asked Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Billy Reed.
"Have you ever masturbated?" shot back Brown. And in the ensuing 30 minutes he touched on rape, murder, Sirhan Sirhan, Eldridge Cleaver, H. Rap Brown, epilepsy and the sickness of big-time athletics.
For some reason, Kentucky and the Soviet Union always did that to Brown—they became the Landlady, the Welfare Worker, the Hypocrites at Church. Before an exhibition against the Russians in '77 he screamed at his team, "This is the greatest country in the world! The hell with the Communists!" and at a referee, "What are you wearing under that shirt, a T shirt with a hammer and sickle?" He infuriated other coaches. One strolled over during the fourth quarter and called him "a sonofabitch" for rolling up the score. C.M. Newton, the placid man who was then coach at Alabama, seethed when Brown signaled a man in the rafters to lower an SEC championship banner during a timeout with 38 seconds left the night in 1979 when LSU clinched its first title in 25 years. But just when it seemed his hunger to succeed would sweep him off in its undertow, he would hijack a bellhop's suitcase rack and ride it down a hotel hallway, or talk a beautiful stranger in the lobby into knocking on his players' doors for bed check.
Slowly, he turned LSU into a national power, ignoring death threats and hate mail for loading his lineup with blacks. "Death threats? He almost seemed to enjoy them," says a friend, Baton Rouge businessman Tom Moran. Brown loved to find poor, fatherless kids from the middle of nowhere, knock on their doors and paint a word picture of the mountaintop he could lead them to if only they would follow.
"It was like a longtime fishin' buddy had just come up from the lake," recalls Rudy Macklin, a star on the '81 LSU team Brown took to the Final Four, of the day Brown came to his home to recruit him. "He didn't nibble at lunch. He ate. He talked about everything. Oh, man, did my mother love him. Then he said, 'Let's you and I take a ride, Rudy,' We talked for three hours. It was like he said, 'Rudy, I'm going to become your father.' I was swept away."
Sometimes the effectiveness of his teams was diminished by his abrupt changes in lineups or strategy, or his short attention span for tedious repetition of fundamentals, and at other times it was heightened by his wild-eyed lust to succeed. But his players loved knowing he would fight for them, whatever the enemy. At Georgia in '78, as a Bulldog football player was about to strike one of Brown's players in a postgame argument, Brown raced across the court, flung the Georgia player to the floor and pinned him with his knee. If he was with you, he was with you.
In one stretch his teams beat Kentucky seven of 11 games, and his '80-81 team set an SEC record of 26 consecutive victories in one season. But he discovered something odd: Winning did not bring deep satisfaction. "We got to the Final Four," he says, "and it was like the Promised Land was desert." He felt parched inside. At 3 a.m. on another night, when he felt no desire to sleep, he thought of how he must now pursue a whole new fleet of 17-year-olds and look up at 13,000 fanatics in the stands for 30 more nights to prove his point all over again. The answer seemed so clear to him. "I've got to go to the village to be with children. I've got to go to the Tatra Mountains in Czechoslovakia. Everything is so simple to me at 3 a.m.—if I could live my life between 1 and 4 a.m. I'd be twice the person I am."
Winning only seemed to sharpen his urge to show the world and help the world. Each season he brought a snaggletoothed, mentally retarded man named Alfoncy Ellis from Pineville (La.) to Baton Rouge, gave him tickets, a shampoo and haircut, a new set of clothes and a weekend at the Hilton. Another retarded man became manager of the team. A quadriplegic kept statistics. A blind man who made clicking noises like a radar system to detect objects in his path became his companion. Ex-convicts recently released from a local state prison, inspired by his offer to help them, knocked on his office door, and he lent them money. He became a member of the NAACP and Dreams Come True, an organization that grants last wishes to dying children. He came home from trips abroad with pictures of children he wanted to adopt and men he wanted to help escape from countries with repressive governments. His financial adviser and wife begged him to stop. "He collects people like some people collect stray pets," Vonnie says.
"I'm close to him and I don't know him," says Moran. "Maybe Vonnie does—but I doubt it. He doesn't let anyone."
"It's not that I don't want to trust people," Brown says. "But when I give myself I can get hurt. Hell—Alfoncy . . . see what I'm saying? He can't give me anything. There's no cunning, no deception, no selfish motive. All those talking about close relationships with you, they want to possess you."
And the need to affect strangers heightened the need to win games. "All the people I've been able to help, you don't get to do that if you're 6-20," he says. "They won't be as proud to associate with us."
About five years ago Minot State College asked Brown to return to be honored as a distinguished graduate. Before he left, his wife told him something he had never known, that the dean of women at the school had once warned her about dating a man with Brown's reputation for wildness. Instead of chuckling, Brown flared. "I said to myself, 'System, I'm going to give you a knockout punch.' "
He flew to North Dakota and found Dee Dee Govan, the old black man who had once operated a brothel in Minot. "He always came to my games and had to sit alone," Brown says. "The people who looked down their nose at him were the same ones who looked down their nose at my poor old mama and the little urchin she had out on the streets trying to make a living. The people who were going to bed with Dee Dee's whores wouldn't say hello to him on the streets."
One of the first things Brown did when he accepted the honor was to introduce the old black man as his special guest. Then he had Govan stand near him in the reception line. "Well, hello, Mr. Smith, I know you remember ol' Dee Dee Govan," he would boom to the squirming married couples coming through the line.
"I thought to myself, Take that, system," he says.
This was life at its sweetest for Dale Brown. With a single stroke he had tallied an I'll help you to an ignored old man and an I'll show you to the hypocrites who ignored him as a little boy.
"I should forget about Socrates and Plato and the Korean conflict. . . . I should do nothing but diagram plays for you. But I hate it with a passion. You don't have to be smart to be a basketball coach. I don't even like to go to coaches' conventions anymore. Most of the coaches are superegos, with their Stepford wives. I see all the same napkins in the coffee shops with the same X's and O's."
Brown stuffs his napkin in his coffee cup and watches the brown stain expand. "That's what I do with my napkin," he declares.
The same day he says that when he met John Wooden, his hero, at a high school coaches' clinic in Louisville, he pushed aside the salt and pepper shakers at a coffee-shop table, leaning forward to see the X's and O's the ex-UCLA coach scribbled on his paper place mat.
"Coach," Brown asked, "how far did you allow the guard to penetrate in that offense? Did he go into the lane? Coach, before you eat your soup, put your wing in the normal place, high post at the side of the lane, ball at the point. . . ."
He sits in his office straightening the desk calendar and the out box so they align perfectly with the edges of his spotless desk, and fingering the paper clips he sometimes arranges according to size. He straightens newspapers when he enters recruits' houses and the vitamin pills his wife leaves at night on the counter to take the next morning.
He chews gum so hard the muscles on both sides of his forehead expand and contract violently. He reaches again and again into his file cabinet to produce a news clipping or parable reprinted on LSU stationery to prove a point. He talks endlessly, dramatically, leaping up to relive moments, changing voices to act out characters, altering cadence and volume like a radio evangelist, ricocheting from one thought to the next in midsentence, evoking incidents and emotions from his past with the clarity of a man who has lived with his flesh ripped back and his raw tissue exposed. "I can still feel it," he keeps repeating. "But why do I talk so much? You'd think I was a Vietnam POW trying to make up for 7½ years of silence."
The moment an idea pops in his mind, he reaches for the phone and pounds out the numbers—his model is hammertone, not Touch-Tone. Nothing in his life can ferment—it has to be acted on now. He once awakened an LSU assistant sports information director at 3 a.m. to inform him that the team had hit buzzer shots in three of its last four games, and Tom Moran at 4 a.m. to tell him what a nice friend he was.
He yawns. Could he be tired?
"No, that's a sign of relaxation. I don't need much sleep." Could he be hungry?
"No, I haven't touched one bit of food today. I don't need to eat much."
The thought of needing something—food, water or 7-foot 17-year-olds—disturbs him. He once went 4½ days without eating or drinking, and on occasion goes three days without sleep. He had to prove a point. The first day of practice each year, he talks to his players about winning the NCAA title. When he wanted to start exercising regularly, he made a bet with his assistant coach that he would do it 365 straight days. That meant running during a midnight sleet storm in Reykjavik, Iceland and getting sick for a week—but he proved his point. "And starting Monday," he blurts to his visitor, "I will run a minimum of one timed mile a day for a year. If I don't, on my honor, I will send you a $1,000 check. In sickness, injury, travel, bad weather, busy-ness, I will do it. You know what, it isn't even a challenge. I know I'll do it."
For years he never could figure out how to draw a star. Now, as he talks, he doodles them by the hundreds—just to prove five points.
His whole life had become a crusade. For his vacation in 1982, he tried to climb the Matterhorn but had to turn back at 11,000 feet when conditions became too hazardous. A year earlier he and friends tried to set the world speed record, via powerboat, from one end of the Mississippi to the other. Next, he is considering a search for Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey, and a crossing of the Arctic by dogsled to plant an LSU flag on the North Pole. His photo albums are filled with snapshots of him—on camelback, on mountainsides, in front of palaces—with his index finger or both fists raised.
In the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis, he talked to Dick Gregory about offering himself, Gregory and Muhammad Ali in exchange for the hostages. He tried to organize a World Final Four to feed Ethiopians.
I'll show you and I'll help you had become so ravenous no 30-game season could fulfill them. And now there were moments when he could sense the trap his life had become. He needed to leave basketball; he saw that it summoned the darkest side of him. And yet he hadn't reached the mountain-top, planted the flag and raised his fists.
"He has told me several times he can't understand why he hasn't won the NCAA championship," says Bob Richards, the former Olympic pole vault gold medalist from whom Brown learned much about motivational speaking. "Secretly, he wants to be like Adolph Rupp and John Wooden. Secretly, he believes if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. I understand him; he's like my soulmate. It's become a religion to him. You get this feeling you're made for greatness—God made you to create and build and take charge of the universe. To not use it is a sin. And when you commit to it, you cut out everything that could keep you from getting there."
Brown yearned to do it with a team of nobodies from nowhere, to light psychological firecrackers under them each night and watch them bash the Kentucky Landladies and the UCLA Welfare Workers. But in his 13 years at LSU, he learned that that could not be. His teams had won three SEC regular-season titles and one tournament championship, but had lost 10 straight postseason games since 1981. To plant the flag, he needed players so large and swift and self-motivated they didn't need his iron-bending experts or his quotes from Socrates.
Before he could quit and withdraw from the world, to gaze down on it from above, he would wade deeper into the swamp: the most vicious recruiting wars, the ones reeking of everything he detested in college athletics—he sucked in his breath and entered. His urge to help poor and fatherless teenagers—not only to win basketball games but also because he felt driven to help any underprivileged person—kept pushing him into conflict with NCAA rules. And by his own admission he may have broken some, each time becoming the guilt-ridden nine-year-old Catholic altar boy on the toilet, hiding and telling lies, hearing the sirens and smelling the smoke all over again. He could still feel it.
Sometimes he committed what he called "Robin Hood acts" to uphold "human dignity." He took care of the payment of one player's oral surgery, paid for another's private tutoring sessions to teach him to read and arranged funds for three players to travel to St. Louis and visit ex-teammate Mark Alcorn, just before Alcorn died of cancer in 1982. "God, I felt like a criminal, drawing the curtains in my office and sliding envelopes with $300 to each of them," he says.
Other times he says he was tempted to break the rules but resisted. In 1979 a poor, skinny, but heavily recruited guard named Rod Foster met Brown near Foster's home in New Britain, Conn. Brown says he had $1,000 "three-quarters of the way out of my pocket 32 different times and I could not pull it out. Guess where he signs two days later? UCLA."
Of even greater interest were some of the players Brown landed. One was sophomore forward John Williams. Two years ago Brown entered the recruiting battle for the Los Angeles high school phenom during which there were rumors of threats on Williams' life and offers of huge payments to him. Williams chose LSU, apparently at the urging of his mother and without, Brown swears, receiving a single illicit dollar.
Then there was Horford, the Dominican Republic native whose letter of intent to attend Houston, Brown insisted, was invalid because the man who signed it, Horford's high school coach in Houston, was not really his legal guardian. So there Brown was, sweltering in a tiny house in Santo Domingo, waiting to meet Horford illegally, after the NCAA's recruiting period was over, burning with guilt yet justifying it because he felt he had been cheated of a chance to meet Horford during the legal visiting period.
"I was sitting there waiting for Tito, mad as hell at myself for playing the game," he now says. "Not because of the [NCAA] rule—what the hell's the rule? I didn't napalm-bomb anybody. It was my code I broke—I don't go out to break rules to get advantages, that's my code. But it's sure funny that I'm the only one who got written up. I didn't walk out of the gym [in Santo Domingo] with my arm around him. I didn't talk to him in the restaurant, sitting down beside him. I didn't have him in my car. How come those three weren't written up? That's why I've got to get away. The guys who put pens in their hands, turn on tape recorders, sonsofbitchin' self-righteous bastards. I'm sick of it. I don't want to see my picture [in a newspaper or magazine] again. I'm burning all the crap [he sends to reporters on his mailing list] and I'm not sending anything anymore to the media from this day on.
"That's my biggest burden, guilt. You see, I'm better than sonofabitchin' psychiatrist. I don't need to go to some sonofabitch who's probably drunk tonight, can't even stand up, vomiting on himself."
Brown says Horford did not show up for the illegal meeting, so Brown was saved from the violation. A month later, after Houston signed and then lost Horford, the 7'1" center appeared on the LSU is, and Brown had seemingly won the war. He won-why he felt no excitement. Suddenly, with Williams and Horford, Dale Brown was the Landlady. Now he was expected to win-how could he prove anything?
The muck got deeper, of course, when Horford departed from the team two weeks ago, just as it had when the NCAA snooping around, just as it had when FBI agents those bugging devices in athletic director Bob Brodhead's office. And through it all, Brown kept talking about the need to clean up the swamp.
"we've got to change the system," he said. "Pay the athletes a few hundred dollars a month for their basic needs, going to hear the reverse—'My kid goes to LSU and work at McDonald's [to earn money].' But your kid doesn't mal million [the rough yearly gross income from basketball] for LSU. Who's making the money from sports? The athletic director, coaches, doctors, trainers, airlines, hove don't mention the whorehouses and massage par-he athletes are treated like migrant workers.
"The NCAA doesn't solve the problem; they keep putting powder on a cancer. They legislate against human dignity. I'll tell you what you're going to have left in this [coaching] profession. A bunch of narcissistic, money-hungry sonofabitches that love to see themselves on TV in their three piece suits and alligator because good people are fed up with the crap you've got to go through. I just want to be left alone. I have to be up en with a bottle of wine. . . ."
And on he went, pounding podiums, lecturing the media, crying out at coaches conventions, three times sending out 1,200 letters to university chancellors, athletic directors, coaches, faculty representatives and NCAA officials with is ideas to change the system. All the rage of all his life had something he could put a name and a finger on—a four-letter in-"n and a 366-page rule book, the padlocked door against which I'll show you and I'll help you kept hurling him.
"I feel my final fight is coming on," he says of the NCAA's current preliminary investigation of LSU. "I know they would love to nail me. Do I hang around for the fight? Why should I fight?—I'm getting out soon. Because it's not right. It's not right what they did to my mother. It hurts human beings and it's hypocritical. You are your brother's keeper. And if it comes to a fight, you can make book in Las Vegas who will win. Me."
Suddenly he seems to be talking not about the NCAA but about anyone that might ever make him feel threatened. He looks his visitor in the eye.
"If you come after me, you'd better have a cleeeean house. Because if you're wrong, I'm coming after you. You're talking to a guy that's been in a state longer than anybody. I know bellhops, waitresses, desk clerks, taxicab drivers, porters, O.K.? Had you and a hooker checked into the Hilton together, I would've found out in 15 minutes if I wanted to. I don't mean that to say it's a Mafioso tactic. Do you understand? I'm close to three governors, I'm close to . . . what I'm trying to say, I'm not a detective, but a lot of stuff comes back to me. Don't screw with me unless you really feel you're without venial sin, because I will do everything to find out, to stop what I think is an unfair act.
"But I've got to change. I don't want to be combative. I'm too fragmented. I've got to find the middle ground between being a pin cushion and a stone wall. I cannot think of everything as the welfare worker, as the scuffed linoleum, as the Jews being taken to Dachau. I will whip it totally. I will. I will. I will. I just want to have peace."
He said this on an airplane, coming home from a motivational speech during which, in his zeal, he knocked the microphone off his shirt three times. Now a baby wandered in the aisle of the plane, fearless and free. He scooped her up and looked into her happy blue eyes. "What happens to us?" he asked. "My God, what happens to us?"