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Evan Brown suddenly retired last week as the Madras High School athletic director, ending a 21-year career at the school.

 - Before becoming the athletic director at Madras High School in 2012, Evan Brown was a successful varsity boys basketball coach for the White Buffalos, leading the squad to second- and fifth-place finishes in 1997 and '98. He won league coach of the year honors nine times across four classifications, and was the 1997 4A coach of the year.

Evan Brown suddenly retired last week as the Madras High School athletic director, ending a 21-year career at the school.

Brown, 59, was a physical education teacher and very successful varsity boys basketball coach at MHS from 1992 through 2007. He left the school after that year to be the athletic director at Cascade High School in Turner, Oregon, after being passed over for the athletic director job at MHS.

Brown would eventually leave Cascade to be the athletic director and head boys basketball coach at Stayton High School. He returned to Madras as athletic director prior to the 2014-15 year.

He has served as athletic director — and again as head basketball coach for three seasons, 2016-17 through 2018-19 — until suddenly retiring this week.

Brown said it was "time to slow down," embrace retirement and avoid "65-hour work weeks."

This year specifically, the position has been a very political one as the school district deals with COVID-19 policies. The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) gave school districts options on how they wanted to address Season 1. However, COVID protocols and safety were at the forefront. All districts in Central Oregon other than the Madras- and Bend-based district played short seasons of spring sports in a thrown-together regional league.

Madras decided not to complete, citing the desire to focus efforts on the many challenges coaches (as teachers) and students had with distance learning. MHS offered assorted practices during the fall season, choosing to wait to start competitive games with the OSAA-sanctioned winter season starting in December.

The decision to not compete this fall, and a perceived lack of organization and effort by some program coaches, disappointed many athletes and parents. Tempers flared a bit at an Oct. 5 parents' meeting on the topic. Several parents spoke at the Oct. 12 school board meeting, citing their disappointment that a more structured program wasn't adopted, and that MHS didn't participate in with the fall "league" of Central Oregon schools.

"COVID has polarized the entire nation and it has trickled down (to communities)," said Brown, following his retirement.

Brown didn't pin the fallout from the school's fall season decision, and disgruntled parents, as forcing the retirement, but he did say "maybe it was time for someone else."

Brown said his retirement was completely his decision and he was not asked to leave.

509-J Superintendent Ken Parshall said, "We are very grateful for Evan's 39 years of service to athletics and his many years serving student athletes and supporting coaches here in Jefferson County."

Parshall said a temporary plan will be put in place to support athletics through the rest of this year. The position of athletic director will be posted in December with a start date of the beginning of the next school year.

Margaret Sturza, the MHS athletic director from 1994 through 2007 and a member of the Oregon Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, was sad to hear of Brown's retirement. The two had worked closely over the years.

"He is an excellent AD, always putting kids first.  He is also a great mentor to the coaches. He is a problem-solver and a lifetime learner. He is always seeking ways to be a better AD, teacher and coach," said Sturza. "The school district and Madras High has been a better place because of him and will not be the same without him.  He will leave very big shoes to fill." 

Decorated career

Before becoming an athletic director, Brown had forged a highly respected reputation as a basketball coach.

At Madras and at other stops, he earned league coach of the year honors nine times, spanning the 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A divisions. He earned one state coach of the year honor in the 4A division after leading the White Buffalos to second place in the 1997 state tournament. The following year, his squad took fifth at the tournament.

Madras moved up to the 5A Intermountain Conference for a four-year run in the mid-2000s. Faced with competing against usually much taller squads, Brown installed a system of high-energy, fast-paced offense and defense, which featured substituting full five-man units every couple minutes. Offensively, the system featured a lot of three-point shooting. The style drew wide attention in Oregon prep basketball circles and drew the nickname "Three-diculous."

The innovative style helped Madras successfully compete against the much larger schools.

Brown left to become the athletic director at Cascade High School for the beginning of the 2007-08 school year. He would eventually leave there to become the athletic director and head basketball coach at Stayton.

When the MHS athletic director position opened in 2012, Brown applied and got the job, noting his eagerness to return to Madras.

It was during his second stint as basketball coach at Madras that he became the winningest coach in the program's history, passing longtime coach Joe Blincoe, who coached from 1976-77 through 1991-92.

Brown said he was a different coach and person when he returned to Madras. Long known as a fiery, intimidating, no-nonsense coach, he said he "mellowed" by the time he came back to Madras.

"The administrative side of things changes your perspective," said Brown. "You realize it's a lot about character education (and less about wins and losses). The bigger goal is developing young people, making them better young men and young women. That's the bigger lifelong impact goal."

Being a father as his two sons grew up also changed his perspective.

"I mellowed over the years with my own kids, and that changed my outlook as a coach," said Brown.

Brown said he regrets his overly intense style in his earlier days as a coach.

"I think I could have gotten the same results if I was ... less intense."

One of his coaching hires as MHS athletic director was his son, Nick, to replace him as head basketball coach, prior of the 2019-20 season.

Honored athletic director

Brown has also received many honors as an athletic director, including being twice named 4A athletic director of the year.

As an athletic director in the Willamette Valley, he was one of the creators of the "play-in" system for team sports in Oregon, which gave more schools a chance to qualify for post-season action.

He received an Oregon Association of Athletic Director's Leadership Award and also an Innovative Athletic Director statewide award.

In 2016, Brown and Sturza, while driving together to a track meet, jointly came up with the idea of starting the Madras High School Sports Hall of Fame. They worked together to form a committee that, since its first class in 2017, has enshrined 29 former athletes, coaches and teams. The two have worked as leaders of the committee since it was established.

MADRAS PIONEER FILE PHOTO  - Evan Brown, left, inducting Desiree (Gauthier) Kelly into the MHS Athletic Hall of Fame in January. Brown and former MHS athletic director Margaret Sturza kickstarted the hall idea, and it has so far honored 29 athletes, teams and coaches from the 1950s through the 2000s. "The hall is also a highlight," said Brown. "It's great that we can honor all those people who have done so much for MHS sports."

One of Brown's last statewide impacts as an athletic director occurred last April, after COVID-19 had prompted the cancelation of spring sports, closed schools and would eventually cancel graduation ceremonies as most known them. Inspired by something he read where a Colorado school had turned on the football stadium lights as a sign of recognition to what the pandemic was costing students, a program called Be the Light. Brown loved the idea and began emailing fellow athletic directors. Eventually, the effort led to 78 high schools in Oregon, in all classifications, firing up football stadium lights to let kids know their schools and communities were thinking about them.

At the time, Brown said, "It shows how much the schools are hurting for their kids and searching for ways to honor them in their communities."

Brown plans to continue to reside in Madras and work as a real estate agent in partnership with his wife, Amy.

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