Varsity Reds Mourn Brown's Passing

Gary Brown, right, presents a scholarship award to Diego Padilha of the Varsity Reds at a ceremony in 2016. The long-serving coach of UNB's men's soccer team passed away Wednesday. He was 74. (Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics)
Gary Brown, right, presents a scholarship award to Diego Padilha of the Varsity Reds at a ceremony in 2016. The long-serving coach of UNB's men's soccer team passed away Wednesday. He was 74. (Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics)

(FREDERICTON, NB) The architect of four Atlantic University Sport championships and UNB’s only national men’s soccer championship has left the field.

Gary Brown passed away Wednesday. He was almost 75.

Brown led UNB’s men’s soccer team as head coach from 1971 until 1998. In 1980, he became the first coach in any sport to bring the institution a Canadian title.

Brown was also a long-serving member of the Faculty of Kinesiology, retiring as an associate professor in 1999.

Along with coaching the 1980 Canadian university championship team, Brown was named AUS Coach of the Year three times(1979, 1980, 1991) and Canadian Interuniversity Sport(CIS) Coach of the Year once(1980).

“Gary was one of those guys who was larger than life,” says current Varsity Reds head coach Miles Pinsent. “Obviously, he was aging and his health had declined, but you never believed the rules of nature applied to him.”

Before coaching the Varsity Reds, Pinsent played for Brown as a member of the UNB Red Shirts from 1988 until 1991.

Shocked by the news of Brown’s passing, Pinsent believes the coach has left an indelible mark on UNB soccer.

“I think that in the 70s and 80s Gary was ahead of his time, in his scientific approach to the game,” says Pinsent. “He combined his academic background with his coaching techniques in a way that was not common practice at that time, especially in university sport.”

Pinsent and Brown built a relationship over their almost 30 years together. First as player and coach, then coach and former coach, and as friends.

Pinsent says he has many fond memories, but one, from 2006, stands above the rest.

“Our team had just won the AUS championship, my first as a coach. We had a reception for the team, family members and alumni. Gary was present and I asked him to say a few words to the group. He spoke about the significance of winning and what it takes to have success. As he spoke of the importance of teammates and life-long friendships he became choked up and couldn’t continue for a few minutes. That emotion demonstrated how much he valued the UNB soccer program and what the people associated with the program meant to him.”

George Lucas was saddened to hear of Brown’s passing too.

The current keepers coach for both Varsity Reds teams, Lucas played for Brown between 1984 and 1988, winning back to back Atlantic conference titles in 1986 and 1987.

“He pushed me every session,” said Lucas. “He was always trying to bring out my best. He introduced me to weight training to make me stronger and trusted me to make smart on-pitch decisions.”

Lucas, like Pinsent, has his favourite memories of Brown. At the top of his list is a private moment shared between coach and player ahead of the 1986 Atlantic conference championship game.

“A few minutes after we arrived, we sat in his car and he said that it was my game to win and to ‘go do it.’ We won that final on penalty kicks for our first of two in a row championships.”

“He had a heart of gold,” says Maureen Sparks, the Varsity Reds former Special Events and Communications Manager. She spent more than 30 years with the VReds, almost 20 assisting Brown in various capacities. “He was gruff though. He had a hard life and those life experiences make us who we are.”

Like others, Sparks saw beyond the tough, old fashioned coach.

“There was never a man that would do more for you and more for his athletes. He was just such a genuine human being.”

While retired from coaching and teaching, Brown was never far from UNB or the soccer field.

When the Varsity Reds hosted the CIS men’s championship in 2013, Brown served as an honourary chair of the event.

“I feel privileged to be named honourary co-chair of this prestigious event,” he said at the time. “I’m really looking forward to being a part of another CIS championship event at UNB. I'm sure it will bring back exciting memories of the time we won here on home turf."

Brown amassed an impressive record as head coach of UNB’s men’s soccer team.

His regular season record of 160-78-55 covers 26 of his 27 seasons. Records are not available for 1978. Brown’s teams qualified for the Atlantic conference playoffs in 21 of his 27 seasons.

Brown’s contributions to athletics at UNB began before his days as coach of the men’s soccer team. As a student, he played hockey for the UNB Red Devils. He also served as coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams.

But soccer was where he excelled.

Both Pinsent and Lucas feel Brown’s impact on UNB and the men’s soccer program will be felt for many years.

“As a young player in the 80s, I knew I wanted to attend this university and play for its team because of the culture of success that was associated with the program,” said Pinsent. “When I took over the men’s team in 2003, it was my intention to try and re-establish that aura. Because of Gary’s effort, I knew it could be done and I knew what it should feel like.”

“Hopefully, the athletes he coached and the staff he worked with will continue to tell ‘Gary’ stories,” said Lucas. “That will help others realize what a great man and coach he was.”

A celebration of Gary Brown’s life will be held in the Alumni Memorial Building, on the Fredericton campus, at 7:00pm, on Sunday, September 17th.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to The Gary Brown Family Scholarship or The Dax Brown Memorial Scholarship may do so by contacting UNB’s Office of Development and Donor Relations at 458-7594 or annualgiving@unb.ca