Hubie Brown is a Hall of Famer and a two-time Coach of the Year recipient. He is the coach who helped guide the 1975 Kentucky Colonels to the ABA title and, 29 years later, led the Memphis Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance in NBA history. He is a lifer in the truest sense, having played professionally in a second-tier league in the late 1950s before transitioning into a coaching career that lasted off and on for several decades, announcing games in between jobs. However, to many younger fans, he’s not known for any of those achievements behind the bench, but for being the old guy who calls Sunday afternoon games on ESPN, where he remains one of the league’s most distinct and engaging voices.
Hubie is a man in love with players who Shoot a Good Percentage and he is always on the lookout for What You Like To See There. He wants you to Watch What Happens Here and to Look At How They Shoot The 3-Ball. He is a man who, throughout the duration of the game, is only concerned with what is happening directly in front of him on the court. Anything said by broadcast partner Mark Jones that does not have to do with the game is either ignored or immediately related to what’s going on between the Pacers and Celtics in that moment. Jones could talk about a player recently having a child and Hubie would show no interest in that human interest story, instead wanting to talk about how that same player is bringing new life to his team by working on his elbow jumper where he now shoots a good percentage of 45 percent. He simply does not have time for the drama, caring infinitely more about whether or not Anthony Davis is setting a good pick on Jrue Holiday’s man than about what is going on with his trade request.
Despite having more than enough accolades to rest on, or getting by on accumulated knowledge from his previous decades in the basketball, Hubie still appears to put in a ton of research before every game. In light of the statistics he rattles off seemingly every other possession it’s easy to imagine him spending hours on NBA.com or Basketball-Reference before the game, trying to make sure he knows for sure just what Myles Turner is shooting from deep and whether it qualifies as merely respectable or as actually good. And either he has a truly absurd number of printed-out shot charts in front of him as he calls the game or he has an impeccable memory — maybe it’s both.
Most importantly, he showcases a genuine love for the game that is far more rare among national broadcasters than it should be. While others seem to enjoy complaining about the state of the game for the two and a half hours they are on the air more than they enjoy actually watching it, Hubie sounds genuinely thrilled to be lucky enough to get paid to watch and talk about basketball. He comes across as someone who has fallen in love with the game and is eager to share its beauty with viewers, hoping to convey to them what has entranced him for so many years now. And while he is a coach at heart, caring deeply about the fundamentals of the game — the pick and roll, the defensive rotations, the shooting mechanics — he is no conservative decrying the ways the game has evolved since his days as a coach. Instead, he is in awe of the athleticism and talent on display, hoping to describe to viewers in a clear way just what they are seeing.
Even now, at 85 years of age, Hubie shows no signs of stopping. Just last October, he signed a contract extension with ESPN, apparently having no inclination to retire and live a life where he does not get to be intimately involved with the game he loves. Apparently, it’s just as hard for Hubie to imagine a life without basketball as it is for me to imagine watching playoff basketball without him.