Updated 29 February 2016
Dick Brown, one of the most respected and admired coaches in our sport, has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Dick coached many of the top Athletics West athletes during the clubs heyday. After that, he coached track athletes, cross country skiers and race walkers. The tributes to Dick were touching on Face book, as many of his former athletes, coaches, friends wrote notes of affection to their former coach and associate.
Dick Brown was very helpful to me in the early days of our pub, American Athletics. He would always sit down and answer questions at meets and would be there to provide insights into training and coaching techniques.
Dick Brown worked with several of his fellow Nike friends and developed a Nike sports monitor, which they marketed with us in 1991. The product was way ahead of its time, much like Dick’s approach to periodization.
We publish the obit in its entirety, courtesy of Peter Thompson and the IAAF.
IAAF Obit for immediate release
Dick Brown, coach to Athletics West and Mary Slaney, passes away
The IAAF is deeply saddened by the news that Richard L (Dick) Brown, the respected and renowned USA coach and physiologist, passed away on 27 February at the age of 78.
Dick Brown was one of the early pioneers, integral in the transition of Athletics from a wholly Corinthian, amateur sport to one having a recognised and accepted professional elite. Starting in the late 1970s, into the 80s and to today, Athletics is continuing to evolve to meet the needs for both a professional and amateur side.
Brown moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1978, after coaching eight years at the US Naval Academy and six years at Mt. Blue High School in Maine. He moved to work as the exercise physiologist of Athletics West, Nike’s new and innovative post-collegiate, professional track and field club. Soon, he was Director of the Athletics West program and coaching some of their elite members, including the first female member of the team, Mary Decker Slaney.
He coached Mary Decker Slaney in her best years, crowned by 1983 when she won two gold medals (1500m and 3000m) at the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Helsinki.
Dick Brown went on to build a long history of coaching world-class athletes, into the 2000s. His athletes included 1996 Olympians, Suzy Favor Hamilton and Vicki Huber. He also led the vision-impaired athlete, Marla Runyan into middle-distance running, which would lead her to the 2000 Olympic 1500m final.
In 2002, the author and coach, Joe Henderson wrote, perhaps, the best summary of Dick Brown’s unique qualities, “Dick is more than a running coach. He also has sent athletes to the Olympics in race walking and cross-country skiing, as well swimming in the Paralympics.
Dick is more than a coach of world-beaters. The methods he prescribes for these athletes scale down well for use by runners of all levels. Dick is more than a coach. He’s a research scientist with an intimate understanding of what makes all exercising human beings work and how they can work better. He combines scientific enquiry and knowledge that few coaches can match with practical know-how that few physiologists can claim.
Dr. Dick has an inventive mind. He created the AquaJogger, the most popular flotation device for deep-water training and holds a patent for the Individual Trainer, a hand-held computer for calculating training efforts.”
Dick Brown received many accolades during his career, commencing with the 1984 Bruce Jenner Award for the Advancement of World-Class Track & Field and in 1995, he was recognized by USA Track & Field as a Master Coach, the national governing body’s rarely-awarded and highest coaching recognition.
But, let’s conclude with the words today, of one of his former athletes, “Great man. I remember arriving (in Eugene) in 1978. The green AW VW van, the testing, his frustration with some of us “kids” who weren’t into science, his soft spoken demeanor, working for him at AW, his interaction with athletes, and much, much more. I missed him when I left the area. I miss him even more now. RIP Dick. Memory eternal +”.