by Beth Townsend & Dale Brown
As you look back on your career as the winningest coach in LSU basketball history, what is your fondest memory of your Hall of Fame career? What was your most difficult hurdle?
My fondest memory was watching youngsters become men and fully understand that the best potential of me, is we. There is only one way to get anybody to do anything and that is by making the other person want to do it. Manipulation is negative and builds nothing but barriers and distrust. Persuasion builds relationships and from that comes trust and success. People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you really care.
How were you able to develop relationships with young men so that you were able to influence in a way that 70 percent of your players graduated from the university?
85 percent of our players that attended LSU for four years graduated and 70% of all of our players have a college degree. No one in my family had a college degree; my mother only finished the 8th grade and the only source of employment for her during the depression of 1935 was to be a babysitter and clean others homes. Living in poverty growing up was a stimulant to seek something better. I also stressed to all of our players a profound statement by Martin Luther King, “Man will only be free when he reaches down in the inner depths of his own being and signs his own emancipation proclamation and education is one way to do that.” I have always felt the best path to a better future is through education. I felt the embarrassment of being on welfare growing up and was determined that I wanted to never experience that again.
One of my passions is others finding their “purpose.” Did God create you to be a coach…create you for that purpose? How did you discover this purpose? How do you advise others to discover that one thing about which they can be passionate in their life?
I wanted to be an FBI agent but attended a small Teachers College in North Dakota and decided to be a teacher and coach. After a taste of coaching I was determined that it would be my vocation. My advice to those pondering a career is to do what gives you the greatest joy and fulfillment and not what gives you the most money or fame.
One of the most influential books that I’ve read is the Power of Positive Thinking by the late Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. I know that you had the chance to know him personally. How did the Power of Positive Thinking influence you most profoundly?
Growing up I had an inferiority complex because my father abandoned us two days before I was born and never returned or ever supported us in any manner. Being poor and living in a tiny apartment added to the embarrassment. However, a magnificent mother and ex-coach at the high school I attended gave me the support and confidence I needed to succeed. Athletics gave me the first good self-image I had of myself and I am eternally grateful. Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power Of Positive Thinking was another great stimulant for me to believe in myself and that anything is possible with hard work and the right attitude.
Since Dr. Peale was a pastor and his “self help” book was rooted in scripture, reading a blog by Richard Simmons III that you posted on your website, led me wonder if today the “self help” industry attempts to convince people that there is no room for God. In your mind what is God’s place in motivation?
Even though I am still a work in progress God has always been my guiding light and I could not get through one day without him. My mentor of 40 years, Coach John Wooden, was a true beacon light of God.
One of your mentors was the late Coach John Wooden. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a Christian publisher’s conference a number years ago. What single characteristic about Coach Wooden meant the most to you in your personal development?
Coach Wooden was by far the most successful college basketball coach in history and was the paramount example of a servant leader. He was kind, caring, highly intelligent, vibrant, strong-willed, principled, humble and true man of God. Edgar Guest described him perfectly in his poem when he said, “I’d rather see a lesson than to hear one any day.” He did not preach; he lived the principles taught by Jesus.
You are known as a master motivator. What are the key components to being self-motived?
The key components to being self motivated are knowing God never makes any junk, and to propel your dream forward you must have intuition, imagination, determination, perseverance, and faith. The only thing more powerful than fear is faith. It is easy to come up with a litany of excuses and that will only lead you to failure. Being a human being is so complicated that nobody can live their lives without mistakes and failures but if you do your best and never give up, you will be rewarded and your dreams will come true.
We live in a world where hostility towards each other manifests itself everywhere and seemingly all the time. Today your talks and writings go far beyond Coach Dale Brown and more to Humanitarian Dale Brown. What does God call us to do to erase these hostilities and work harmoniously?
Communities and nations will only be transformed when mankind returns to God for guidance. The world will only function properly when we show true love, respect, and tolerance to one another. Nobody makes a grater mistake than those who did nothing because they thought they could only do a little. Gandhi’s most profound statement is so very true, “We must be the change we wish to see.” All through history whenever evil and good compromised, evil always won. There can be no compromise with evil.