Centralia High School boys basketball coach Ron Brown said Monday he will be taking a leave of absence for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
Brown, 82, said he discussed the decision with his wife Saturday night and met with Centralia principal Josh Lowe and athletic director Scott Chamberlain on Sunday before stepping down, citing his health.
“My heart hasn’t been good for quite some time,” Brown said. “As a result, I’m a little more tired than normal. I’ve had a couple of bugs — and bronchitis — that’s knocked me for a loop.
“It’s just been one of those years where I haven’t felt right, and haven’t done as good a job as I should. It was best for the kids and best for my health to take a break.”
Brown, who was in his 56th year as Centralia’s coach, said the health concerns are not life-threatening, and he will evaluate a possible return after the season concludes.
Kyle Donahue, an assistant in the program who played for Brown during the 1990s, will take over as the interim coach.
Donahue, formerly the JV coach, said he has been able to build relationships with current varsity players as they have progressed through Centralia’s system.
“I think in terms of keeping stability for the kids, it’s probably the best move right now,” Donahue said. “I think that was the best thing that we could determine, was it’s about the kids and what’s best for them at this moment.”
Players were informed Brown would be taking a leave of absence on Monday afternoon before practice. Hodges Bailey, a senior and Centralia’s leading scorer, said the announcement was unexpected.
Brown told players that, because of his health, he felt his coaching was not up to the standard he expects it to be.
“Kids are pretty resilient,” Donahue said. “They’re a lot more resilient than what we realize. I think they were pretty taken aback and caught off guard at first. … I think it’s all kind of fairly new for everybody, so we’ll see how things go moving forward.”
The Tigers (6-5, 0-1 Class 2A Evergreen Conference) resume league play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Black Hills.
Bailey said the team has already discussed wearing warmups that have Brown’s name written on the back and breaking huddles with the phrase, “Ron’s house.” The team has chanted that in the past but will make an effort to do it more consistently now, Bailey said.
“It’s more than just Centralia now,” he said. “We’re playing to honor Coach Brown.”
Bailey said Brown has been a mentor to him at Centralia, and his absence will act as motivation for the Tigers to advance to the postseason.
“He’s a legend, and we want to honor him, and not disgrace what he’s built,” Bailey said.