MANILA, Philippines - There are basketball players and there are exceptional ones. Such is the career of Ricardo “Ricky” Brown who is referred to as “The Quick Brown Fox” of Philippine basketball.
After a stellar collegiate career starting at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., playing his freshman season alongside Robert Parish, the former Boston Celtics' veteran center, and eventually playing for Pepperdine University, Brown was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1979 NBA Draft (the same year that had Magic Johnson as the #1 overall pick) by the Houston Rockets.
Brown opted to come to the country in 1980 and played for the NCC-Philippine National team under coach Ron Jacobs, that won the Jones Cup against the US in the final. After this achievement, he went on to join the professional ranks in 1983 and has since been named as one of the Philippine Basketball Association's (PBA) 25 Greatest Players.
How can one forget his pull up jumpers? The way he runs that fast break? The court-general who was able to, time and again, create situations for him and his teammates to win championships with Great Taste and a grand slam with the San Miguel Beermen?
The wonders of social networking has allowed me to touch base with this basketball legend, interview him and get his thoughts on his career, a forthcoming book, and his present life as an educator.
Q & A WITH 'THE QUICK BROWN FOX'
Q: What are your fondest memories of the PBA?
Brown: I have so many wonderful memories of playing in the PBA. Here are some that immediately come to mind:
- I will always remember the electricity felt in the Big Dome and Ultra because of the excitement generated by the PBA fans. I get goose bumps just thinking about running out from the dugouts onto the floor and looking up to see all of the fans so excited and fired up for a great game of basketball.
- The opportunity to interact and engage with the fans before and after the game, and in and around Manila. Just speaking and smiling with them, shaking their hands, [having] photos taken together, and having a quick, friendly conversation touched my heart and my soul. Recognizing that they were thrilled just to spend some time with me was a humbling experience. I miss this more than anything else.
- The undying support and loyalty the fans displayed to me, whether on Great Taste or San Miguel, were so inspiring and motivating. I often felt like the fans were out there on the court with me.
The main thing I remember about all of the great teams I played on in the PBA is not the number of championships or individual awards I received, but rather the teammates that I lived and died with every single day of the basketball season. Especially with the Great Taste teams of 1983-1985, where we continued to grow together starting from scratch…a group of individuals who came together as one with a common goal: to reach beyond our potential and win a championship for our fans! That is what motivated us in both high times of success and low times of adversity. The result of that was 4 straight glorious PBA championships!
The PBA League Office
The league office was fantastic and treated me in an honorable and respectful manner throughout my career. They were a group of dedicated professionals who did an excellent job of developing and maintaining a league that provided quality basketball to the millions of fans throughout the Philippines. It was an honor to be associated with such a professional and high-quality organization.
I was fortunate enough to play in so many ‘Big Games’ in the PBA. Game Sevens of a Championship, numerous Championship Series games, ‘Knockout Games’, and crucial Conference games between high-profile teams. There was nothing like it… the butterflies in my stomach usually started the night before a big game and stayed there until tip-off. There was no greater athletic experience ever!
Q: You are the first Fil-Am to play as a local in PBA. What is your take about the increasing number of Fil-foreigners in the league?
Brown: I believe individuals talented enough to warrant a ‘Play for Pay’ contract who meet the criteria established by the league to be able to play, should be able to play in the PBA. However, the Fil-Sham fiasco a few years ago was an embarrassment to all Filipinos and cannot be tolerated.
The influx of Fil-Ams and Fil-foreigners (I dislike this term ‘Fil-foreigner’ very much!) has definitely raised the level of play, and it has obviously given the PBA ‘a new face’. While I’m an advocate for legit Fil-foreigners to have the opportunity to play in the PBA, I also know that the league being dominated by a large volume of Fil-foreigners is not in the best interest of the league.
In speaking to many Filipinos today about the ‘connection’ to the players now in comparison to when I played, it is emphasized to me that the ‘passion and ownership’ taken by the fans toward certain players and teams are not the same because the league is dominated by so many Fil-foreigners.
Knowing the Filipino basketball fan like I do, this would not surprise me, and I’m sure the league is aware of this dynamic. The very first memorable thing to me about the basketball fans of the PBA was their great knowledge of the game. Then, the parts that separate the Filipino fan from anyone else: the ‘connection’, the ‘attachment’, the ‘ownership’, the ‘passion’, the ‘loyalty’, and the ‘emotion’. Without these, the PBA is not the PBA. I’m hopeful the league will never lose that aspect of their fans.
Q: You have recently created a large volume of photos and images on Facebook that follow your career in Philippine basketball, from the RP National Team to your retirement at San Miguel in 1990. What caused you to do this?
Brown: I have a tremendous desire to give back to the Filipino fans for their undying support and kindness during my 10 years in Philippine basketball. Even though there were extenuating circumstances in my personal life that caused me to retire prematurely, I feel very bad about the way I left the league and the fans in 1990. That should not have happened, and although I cannot change what happened, I am determined to re-establish a connection and relationship with the fans. It is a top priority in my life to do this.
The Vintage Album was created specifically for the basketball fans of the Philippines. I realize that viewing these images from my career throughout the 1980’s would create a sense of nostalgia and happiness during those glorious days of the PBA.
My hope is the images would bring smiles to the faces and warmth to the hearts of the fans that shared those experiences with me, regardless of who their favorite players or teams were.
I came to tears many times during the creation of the Vintage Album. I literally re-lived those years during the process of scanning the photos and images. It was then that I realized the fans will embrace this album and without question, the feedback has been extremely supportive.
Q: I’ve been told that you are planning to do a book on your 10 years in Philippine basketball, which include being the 1st Filipino-American to play in the PBA. Are these rumors true? And what is the motivation to do this?
Brown: Yes, it is true. The sole purpose in doing a book is to give the fans a very special gift, and that would be the story of my 10 years in Philippine basketball. This would chronicle the time Mr. Danding Cojuangco brought me to Manila in 1981 through my premature retirement from San Miguel in 1990.
There is much information to share, many stories to tell, some a ‘behind the scenes look’ that I know the basketball fans, and even non-basketball fans, will find interesting and sometimes intriguing. My ride during those 10 years was sometimes very smooth, sometimes quite bumpy. I want to share these experiences and memories with my beloved Filipino people.
The only thing preventing me from doing this is a publisher and a writer to do this the right way. There would be only 2 conditions: I want the majority of the proceeds to be donated to a good cause in the Philippines; [and] I want to come to Manila to launch the book and embrace and engage the fans in person.
This has nothing to do with monetary gain on my part. On the contrary, this is all about reconnecting and re-establishing with the Filipino people, and creating an opportunity to help those who could use my help from the sales of the book.
Q: Do you plan to visit the Philippines in the near future?
Brown: If the opportunity to do the book works out, I would like to return to Manila to promote and launch the book. I would also like to offer my services as an ambassador to the PBA in whatever capacity they feel I can be an asset to the league. I would love to be an ambassador to the PBA for both in the States and in the Philippines, and believe I could be a plus for the league as it continues to grow. I am willing to do whatever the Commissioner would ask me to do.
I am also interested in purchasing some property in Manila so my family and I will have a place to stay when we ultimately return to the Philippines to stay.
Q: After you retired from the PBA, you became an educator and are currently a Principal at a middle school. Why did you enter this profession instead of staying in the field of basketball?
Brown: Most of my life has been involved in athletics and education. During my PBA career, I visited several schools and engaged with the students. It touched me in such a way that I knew one day teaching would be a profession that I would very much enjoy. I had the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level here in Los Angeles when I retired from the PBA, but I chose the academic route and I am thankful for it.
I decided to move from teaching into administration when my Principal told me privately one day that he thought I had the capability to be a school leader, a Principal, and this conversation inspired me to pursue a Master’s Degree and an administrative credential. If I wanted to pursue a coaching career, it would only have been in the PBA.
There is an ‘itch’ to get involved in coaching at some capacity in the Philippines, but I’m not sure that is possible at this point in my life. I also have a great desire to be connected to the PBA as I feel I could be an asset to them in many different ways. Some people are asking me if I see myself one day coaching. My real desire would be either to work for the Commissioner in some capacity or to be a General Manager for a PBA team.
Q: If asked by the current leadership of the SBP to be a scout/coach tasked with identifying and training Fil-Americans for the national team, would you accept? And tell us your thoughts if offered this position.
Brown: Absolutely. I would welcome the opportunity to help our National Team in whatever way I can be of assistance. I would need to know the responsibilities and expectations of the scout/coach assignment you mention for the SBP, but I am definitely excited at the prospect of working to improve our level of international play. The scout role seems relatively clear, but does it involve only the West Coast or throughout the US? I'm not sure what the coaching aspect would entail. Nonetheless, I am very willing to have a conversation with the SBP leadership on how I can assist them if they have an interest in me.
Q: Do you have anything you would like to say to the Filipino basketball fans?
Brown: My message to the Filipino basketball fans is twofold.
First, I apologize for the way I left you and the PBA. It has left a wound in my soul that I am determined to heal.
I created the RB Vintage Album on Facebook for you to enjoy, and reminisce on the glorious days of the PBA in the 1980’s. I am hopeful that the numerous images of my teammates and I, as well as other players in the PBA, will bring a smile to your face and warm your hearts as you re-live some of those exciting and unforgettable moments at the Big Dome and Ultra.
My special gift to you will be a book on my 10 years in Philippine basketball, God willing. I plan to come home soon, and I can hardly wait to see you all again and simply tell you how much I love and miss you.
IN THE ACADEME
At present, Brown is the Principal of Ross Middle School in Artesia, California. He is the first Filipino-American to be Principal in the prestigious ABC Unified School District, which has a large Filipino enrollment and includes 2 Filipinos on the Board of Education.
Brown is extremely proud to carry this distinction and is hopeful it will inspire other Filipino-Americans to pursue a profession in education.
The game of basketball has opened so many doors for Ricky Brown, and he now pays it forward by helping others, to make sure the right doors open for them as well.