Remembering the Coach Irv Brown and his lasting impact

Irv Brown, far right top row, coached Arvada High School to the Class 3A state baseball championship title in the spring of 1964. (Photo courtesy of Steve Bell)

ARVADA — Irv Brown guided Arvada High School’s baseball team to a state championship in the spring of 1964.

“I was really lucky to be one of his players on his state championship team. The first state championship team Arvada High School ever had,” said Steve Bell, Jeffco Public Schools’ current Chief Operating Officer. “It was a team of players who probably weren’t the most talented around. We didn’t have any superstars. Irv taught us to be great competitors.”

Bell was a junior at Arvada when the school claimed the Class 3A baseball title. However, even before that magical spring season on the baseball diamond Brown was just starting to make an impact on athletics in Jeffco and across Colorado.

“I my opinion, Irv was one of a handful of people who helped really put Jeffco athletics on the map,” said Jim Thyfault, current Executive Director of Athletics and Activities with Jeffco Public Schools. “He was instrumental in the growth of Jeffco athletics.”

Brown was inducted into the Jeffco Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2003.

Brown went on to coach baseball at the University of Colorado and Metro State College. He had a memorable college basketball officiating career where he refereed in six NCAA Final Fours. He became a Colorado sports media icon for 40-plus years before his death on Feb. 3 at the age of 83.

“Whether it was basketball, football, baseball … he knew it all and he knew the people,” Thyfault said. “He more than anyone else in the sports media who had access to TV and radio kept prep sports in the forefront. You just don’t see that anymore.”

While many remember Brown telling stories over the radio airwaves, Bell recalls the relationship of player and coach he had with Brown that started when Bell was 12 years old.

“I never changed my opinion of him. He was larger than life,” said Bell, who also had Brown as his defensive backs coach on the football field at Arvada. “Everything with Irv Brown was about being a competitor. That is the way he taught us to be. Those lessons were forever lasting for me.”

One of Brown’s many famous sayings that stood out for Bell was — “A great competitor will beat you 99-98 or they will beat you 1-0, but they will find a way.”

That competitive spirit stayed with Bell during his college baseball career at Colorado State University, along with his coaching career at the University of Arizona, Wheat Ridge High School and Northglenn High School.

Bell said one of the hardest things he did during his college baseball career was playing against Brown’s teams.

“His coaching style and the mantra in which he taught us and managed us was second to none,” Bell said of his former coach. “My goal when I started coaching was to be like him because I thought so much of him.”

Bell actually coached Brown’s youngest son, Casey, on the football field at Northglenn High School.

“He is one of the goers, starters and innovators when it comes to prep sports. He fostered programs not only in Arvada, but everywhere,” Bell said. “He had assistant coaches go on to win state titles at Lakewood and Jefferson. Irv Brown’s influence was everywhere in Jeffco.”

The memorial service for the sports legend will be held at noon Saturday, Feb. 16, at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.

“He was one of the most impactful people I’ve ever had in my life,” Bell said. “It was my good fortune to have Irv Brown as my coach.”