By Gary Lloyd
BIRMINGHAM – I only knew Jim Brown through Twitter posts about politics and sports, specifically conservative Christian beliefs and his ‘Bama fandom.
“I do not apologize for either,” his Twitter bio stated.
Brown, a teacher and coach at Briarwood Christian School for thirty-five years, was a must-follow for me on the social media platform, and from what I have gleaned, a must-follow in life.
He won his five-hundredth game as a basketball coach on this date one year ago, and tonight at Briarwood, he was recognized and remembered for his contributions. As part of the recognition, this statement was read over the speaker system:
“Coach Brown created a lifetime of memories from his fruitful ministry of 35 years. We remember the celebration of his 500th career win as a girls varsity basketball coach. We remember his faithfulness as a dad and husband to his beautiful family. We remember his humor in Government classes. We remember his humility and his passion for coaching. Most of all, we remember his faithful walk with Jesus Christ and the thousands of lives he reached for the kingdom of God.
We are thankful for his family, friends, and former players and coaches who have joined with us tonight.
Our team will play tonight with the patches “CB” on their uniforms like that have all season. As we watch their hustle and love for one another, we will be reminded that this is how Coach Brown wanted his girls to play.”
Brown stepped away from coaching after the 2017-2018 season, and when my friend and sports journalist Kyle Parmley Tweeted on May 2, 2018, that Lorie Kerley had been named the girls’ head coach, I responded, “If this happens to be Bobby’s wife, can I call dibs on the husband-wife coaching story?”
Brown responded: “It is and would be (a) great story. They were born to be great parents, awesome Christians, and basketball coaches. Briarwood is the perfect place to do all 3. Can’t wait to watch!”
That reply spoke well to Brown’s Christian values. I replied to him, saying, “That sounds fantastic! She has big shoes to fill! See @KyleParmley, this story would write itself.”
Then came Brown’s wit that he was so well-known for: “No doubt she will fill them and then some. Even @KyleParmley could write that story.”
Brown never got to watch husband Bobby and wife Lorie coach the Briarwood girls in person, but we know he’s checking in on the games now. He died exactly two months after that Twitter discussion, and the outpouring of support for his family and stories about the man overwhelmed social media.
I never did write that story on the husband and wife coaching tandem, so maybe this can serve as that collection of words. I have only spoken to Bobby a few times, once for a story on a three-sport star named Michael Hiers. Bobby came home after a practice when Hiers was in the seventh grade and told Lorie, “He’s going to be something else.”
I have never spoken with Lorie, but Kyle wrote about her in his preview of Briarwood for this season. Her first quote in the article: “I definitely miss Coach Brown.”
Many others spoke well of the man who invested over half his life in Briarwood Christian students, both in the classroom and in sports. In his obituary, it was mentioned that contributions could be made to the Coach Brown Memorial Fund. The fund was specifically created for youth to be able to attend Briarwood basketball camps, which previously would not have been able to attend due to costs. Bobby Kerley told Kyle that Brown “always had a way of finding in humor in history, which not many people are good at doing. He always kept you on your toes because you didn’t want to miss what he had to say.”
I thought about that quote for a little while tonight after hearing of Coach Brown’s recognition. It made me think of Twitter, the social media platform laced with enough venom to sicken you. But on this night, I am thankful for that platform, because it was my small way of connecting with a man respected by so many, my gateway into the mind of a fellow conservative Christian and Crimson Tide fan.
And, like Coach Brown, I do not apologize for either.