Barry Lewis: Longtime writer Mike Brown’s ‘unique perspective’ is missed after recent retirement | OK Additional preparations
No reporter was more passionate about high school sports coverage than Mike Brown.
Mike, hired by legendary sportswriter Bill Connors, joined the Tulsa World sports team in July 1979 and spent most of the past 43 years reporting on high school sports until his recent retirement.
“Being at Worlds for over 40 years, that would have been hard to predict,” Brown said recently. “I loved journalism and never wanted to do anything else. I was so grateful to have a job in a town where both my parents lived.
“I didn’t know I was going to cover high school sports when I was hired. Bill asked me what I had in mind and when can you start? I thought high schools would be a lot of fun, to see the big picture, to know a lot about all these high schools.
Mike was as competitive as many of the great student-athletes he covered. This trait, along with his excellent instincts and analysis, was on display each fall in our staff High School Picks competition which he won most years.
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I discovered its competitiveness while covering high school sports for the evening newspaper, The Tulsa Tribune, in the 80s and early 90s. There were many times when I thought I would publish a story in the Tribune, only to find that Mike had outstripped me in the world. And there were other times when we covered the same game, and I thought I had a good angle, but I saw that Mike had a better one.
His passion for high school athletics and great storytelling were also evident to me at the time as he walked two flights of stairs to the Tribune newsroom for conversations after midnight after dropping off his copy of The World. When I joined Le Monde in 1993 after the Tribune ceased publication, it was a great feeling to be on the same team as Mike instead of competing with him.
Over the past week, it wasn’t quite the same without Mike at the Oklahoma Coaches Association clinic. Sitting alongside Mike at this site over the years has allowed me to hear many great stories as he greeted the coaches who stopped by the Tulsa World booth. It seemed like every coach in the state knew Mike.
“Mike will be missed,” said former Union and Tulsa Public Schools athletic director Gil Cloud. “He was easy to talk to and really cared about Tulsa and what was going on.”
Tulsa World readers have also enjoyed many of Mike’s stories in print over six decades.
“Like so many seasoned journalists, Mike Brown is both storyteller and almanac,” said Jason Collington, editor of Tulsa World. “You would bring up a current star in high school sports and he could talk about the player’s family tree and the successes of that player’s father, mother or cousin that Mike covered when they were in high school. What I loved was that Mike found amazing high school athletes who had even more amazing life stories. No one else in this state told these stories like Mike did.
On Tuesday night, the world will recognize his dedication at the All-World Awards Banquet at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center by honoring inspirational athlete Mike Brown of the year.
“Brownie” was a 1970 graduate of Charles Page High School in Sand Springs and a 1974 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. While at CPHS, his passion for high school athletics was already evident when he started contributing game stories to the Sand Springs frontman. He was inspired after reading a fictional book, “Tourney Team,” about the Indiana State basketball tournament. In the early 70’s he spent time with the World Telephone Team writing PONY and Colt League baseball stories.
In college, he wrote for the OU Daily, but didn’t cover sports. Instead, he wrote film reviews – an area in which he occasionally contributed with the world. After graduating from OU, he wrote sports articles for newspapers in Holdenville, McAlester and Oklahoma City before being hired by the World.
During his first three years at Worlds, the high school basketball scene included Booker T. Washington legend Wayman Tisdale, who was coached by Mike Mims.
“Mike Brown is truly a professional,” Mims said. “I met him in his freshman year when he walked into our gym, and we had some great experiences.”
Steve Hudson was Oklahoma City Northeast’s basketball coach when Mike started at Worlds.
“He did an amazing job, he always had good questions no matter the situation and always had a smile on his face,” Hudson said. “It was easier for the coaches to deal with a loss the way he asked his questions.”
Larry Turner was Owasso’s baseball coach for most of Mike’s time covering high schools.
“We’ve come a long way together,” Turner said. “He was always extremely fair, always a great job covering Owasso. He did a great job for high school athletics and baseball in particular. We will miss him. He’s one of the really good guys. »
During Mike’s first 20 years with the world, he selected teams for Oklahoma’s top high school basketball showcase, the Tournament of Champions, and helped TPS athletic director Mick Wilson those last years to choose the women’s teams.
“He’s been really good at supporting student-athletes across the state and made great contributions to the Tournament of Champions,” Wilson said. “He has such great knowledge.”
Mike knew no other speed than full when working on a story. Union athletic director Emily Barkley remembers reading Mike’s stories when she was a student-athlete.
“I always appreciated his attention to detail and he always reported stories well,” Barkley said. “I enjoyed our conversations over the years and how he covered high school sports.”
Part of Brown’s pace was reporting to the state’s governing body for high school athletics, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
“What I’ve always appreciated about Mike is that he’s really interested in getting into the details of the story,” said OSSAA associate director and former Westmoore football coach Mike Whaley. . “He’s been very good at trying to paint every angle of what’s going on.
“He has a great passion for what he does and that’s recognizable to anyone who reads any of his stuff. What worries me is that we’re not going to see the next generation do the stuff of “lifers. This longevity is important for the integrity of reporting on what’s going on. Someone who’s been around a long time can give you that.”
Some of Mike’s favorite high school memories include the 1982 high school boys’ basketball tournament which featured Tisdale, Mark Price and Steve Hale; small Smithville reaching ’85 TofC; and although he didn’t cover it, the 1969 BTW-Hale football semi-final game which featured two of his favorite athletes, John Winesberry and Brent Blackman.
Mike loved all sports and it showed in his reporting.
“My favorite was whatever was in season,” he said. “I understood basketball better than any other sport. The Tournament of Champions was huge for me and I remember a lot of BTW-Douglass games that were stunning. I loved football, the fans were so excited. I’ve always been excited about Friday night football.
It was only fitting that Mike’s last two football game stories involved historic moments last fall – Bixby breaking the state’s all-time record 11-game winning streak and Collinsville winning its first state title by defeating McAlester in a classic 5A.
What’s the biggest change Brown has seen in the past 43 years in high school?
“There’s no comparison in the attention he’s getting now compared to then,” Brown said. “The cover just got monumental.”
Coaches across the state respected Mike, whose philosophy was, “I wanted to be fair. I may have made mistakes sometimes, but I always tried to be fair and I think I succeeded.
Mike was honored as the 2016 National Sports Media Association of Oklahoma’s Sportswriter of the Year.
While at Worlds, Mike also covered other sports, including the University of Tulsa’s run in the men’s Elite Eight basketball in 2000. He also covered professional teams, the Tulsa Talons and Tulsa Shock. His final story for the world involved two local golfers, Chuck Ramsay and Glenn Shaw, playing 100 holes on Ramsay’s 80th birthday last November.
“I wanted to provide a unique perspective, which is what my goal was,” Mike said.
And no one has done it better in the past 43 years.