In Memoriam

Michael Brown

Posted: Saturday, September 26, 2009 11:22 pm

Three men, two former teammates and one rival of Mike Brown, traded stories after a memorial Mass on Saturday about their friend who died Sept. 9 in California.

After formal services at St. John the Baptist church, family and friends had more Mike Brown tales to tell at the home of Richard Anderson on Elmwood Avenue.

“Brownie” was a favorite in Lockport and helped the Lions win the Western New York basketball championship at Memorial Auditorium in 1965. He turned down major colleges to follow his coach Jim Maloney to Niagara University where he was overshadowed, but not underappreciated, as Calvin Murphy’s backcourt mate.

After playing point guard for the Purple Eagles who earned there first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1970, Brown moved to California with his sociology degree and slipped out of the Niagara Frontier spotlight. While working for the Youth Bureau, a felon broke his arm and Brown turned to tending bar.

On Friday, his California friends plan a testimonial to Mike Brown at the Eagles Hall in Santa Barbara. Saturday was his day in his hometown.

Friends offered sitrring, often emotional recollections.

“Anyone who played with him, anyone who saw him and anyone who played against him, certainly remember him,” said teammate Donald “Chip” Case who was in tears during the service. “He was a tremendous, tremendous player. There was no better teammate. He was someone who respected the game who played it with unbridled joy.”

Case, who was a year ahead of Brown at Lockport, played at the University of Virginia and was the third round draft choice of the fledgling Buffalo Braves of the NBA.

“I was drafted four times,” he said. “By the Braves, Carolina Cougars, Baltimore Bullets and the U.S. Army.” Several knee surgeries aborted Case’s NBA hopes.

Brown and Case played together as children before

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joining forces for two-plus seasons at Lockport for Maloney.

John Hayes was the rival in Niagara Falls when he played for Embassy Club and Lockport’s finest played for Niagara Sports.

“We had a great rivalry since we were seventh graders,” said Hayes who went to St. Bonaventure and teamed up with Bob Lanier.

“Mike was destined to play with an All-American because he played at Niagara with Calvin Murphy and we tried to recruit him to Bonaventure,” said Hayes who was a year ahead of Brown. “We pushed hard to get hard to get Mike to Bonnie.”

Hayes led the Niagara Frontier League in scoring and made the All-Western New York team as a senior. Brown made that All-WNY team as a junior.

“Chip was No. 2 and Chip would have led the league in scoring if Brown were on my team,” Hayes said. “Brown was good enough to attract a lot of points.”

Ironically, Brown and Hayes could have been teammates. Brown’s mother re-married when he was in ninth grade and moved to Niagara Falls. Brown wanted to stay with his friend’s in Lockport and lived with his grandparents on Washburn Street through high school.

John Fuerch and Mike were classmates and graduated in 1966. Fuerch went on to lead Niagara County Community College in scoring and became a physical education teacher in Lockport.

“Mike was intense,” Fuerch said. “He did a stagger dribble at half court and everyone would turn their heads like he was going to pass and the next thing he would be right by you and into the basket.”

Brown made an impression the first time he stepped on the varsity court as a Lockport sophomore. He got the ball on the wing and he went right to the hoop and put it in. He got fouled and made the shot, his uncle recalled. “That was the beginning of Lockport’ great teams, because they already had Case.”

Robert Sprung, who was the manager of the Niagara team that upset the University of Pennsylvania in the first round of the 1970 NCAA tournament, attended St. John’s services in a wheelchair.

“Mike was a fun guy,” Sprung said. “He was always laughing and joking. He was a good team quarterback. He loved basketball and he loved Niagara. He was a good teammate. He always wanted to pass the ball on. He never took a shot unless nobody else could take a shot.”

In a game when Murphy had to sit out with an injury, Brown scored 28 points. Brown made nine of 10 shots from the field and sportscaster Chuck Healey called him the best shooter he ever saw.

“He had at least 20 scholarships to St. John’s, Michigan State, Ohio State, all over the place, but Maloney was his high school coach,” said Pete Anderson. “Mike moved in with me.”

Mike’s mom was Dick, Bob and Pete Anderson’s sister. Pete was Mike’s uncle, but two they were only years apart. Dick Anderson was an outstanding player at Salem College and helped coach Brown as a child.

Anderson recalled, “Maloney said to Mike, ‘you ain’t shooting, you’re a point guard. You’re a playmaker. Even Murphy said, he was one of the purest shooters you have ever seen.”

Mike Brown became well-known in California, according to his best friend Paul Delane and became a great softball player. People in California did not know he played basketball.

According to Delane, when his arm was broken in California, “Michael said, I don’t need this crap.” That’s when he went into tending bar.

“It was a perfect calling for Mike,” his friend said. “He was an outgoing person and everybody liked him. He liked to tell stories. At tending bar, he found his niche and really enjoyed it.”

At the Celebration of Life at Eagles Hall in Santa Barbara, his pals will prepare a memory book for his Lockport family.

“He was a great friend,” his mates said. “His heart was as large as anyone you would ever meet. He had a Great Zest for life.”

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott

at 439-9222, ext.

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03/03/16 12:48 PM #1    

Gary Aikin

Michael Brown

Michael Brown of Santa Barbara, CA, formerly of Lockport, passed away September 9, 2009. Born March 29, 1948 in Lockport, he was the son of the late William Brown and Delores (Anderson) Caldwell. Mike attended Lockport schools, graduating in 1966 from L.S.H.S. He played on the Niagara Frontier championship team and then attended Niagara University, graduating in 1970. At Niagara he was a well-known area basketball player, playing with Calvin Murphy, and established himself as the quarterback of the team. Their Niagara basketball teams participated in the NIT and the NCAA Tournaments. In his junior year, Mike averaged 8 points a game. He proved to be a capable starter, playing an outstanding game against North Carolina State in the NCAA tournament, scoring 19 points. He was later inducted into the Niagara University Hall of Fame for basketball. He is survived by his sister, Darcy (Carl) Brown DuMont of Maine and James (Wendy) Caldwell of Newfane; also surviving are two nieces; a nephew and several aunts, uncles and cousins.A Memorial Service will be held at a later date. Donations in his memory may be made to the Niagara University Scholarship Fund, the SPCA or the charity of one's choice. Arrangements by Taylor and Reynolds Funeral Home.

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