GARY | When former West Side boys basketball coach Ike Brown goes through his stacks of memorabilia, which includes several plaques on the wall of his home, the things that he cherishes the most are the letters he receives from his players.
"I always love to get a letter or phone call from them," Brown said. "It is great to see that they are successful and have raised their own families. They ask about my health, about my golf game and it is just great talking to them."
One letter that he points to with pride is from star Bobby Williams, father of former NBA star Sheldon Williams. Bobby was on the 1972 Cougars who finished second in the state. The letter thanked Brown for not only his coaching, but his influence in their lives and making them into men.
Brown coached in two stints with the Cougars in which he won 290 games and seven sectional titles. His first year as the West Side coach, he took his team to the state championship.
It was a bittersweet memory as the Cougars fell 80-63 to Connersville. West Side was whistled for 31 fouls to Connersville's nine. The Spartans shot 47 free throws to West Side's 12.
The game drew attention because of the disturbances that occurred in the stands at the Indiana University's Assembly Hall. There were also several fights in the parking lot. West Side had three technical fouls and Brown had two of them.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association's Board of Control later decided to suspend the Cougars for the 1972-73 season. West Side had played three games before the penalties were announced.
"I'm over it now, but the one thing I still think of is how unfair it was for the kids," Brown said. "The seniors, they did not have a senior season. We had no games.
"The game, the fouls were so one-sided. I have nothing against Connersville, they won the game, but our kids got into foul trouble."
Brown sold his underclassmen on practicing for next year.
"They bought into it and we did things as if we were preparing for games," Brown said. "Five days a week we were in the gym. Our kids worked hard and next year (73-74) we went back to the semistate."
Brown is not sure he could sell that now in a different era.
"Those kids probably would have transferred to another school," he said. "I give our kids credit for sticking with me and our program."
Brown said he loved every minute of his two stints at West Side, where he succeeded Fred Tandy at the new school.
"The kids that I was coaching were great kids, they were coachable," Brown said . "It was the job of my career, something that I wanted to get into."
Brown said there was not pressure despite the expectations for West Side to excel in athletics, particularly basketball, because it was the largest high school in the city. West Side combined Edison and Tolleston high schools with parts of Froebel.
"There was no pressure, though I like pressure," Brown said. "We had a great coaching staff and great kids who wanted to do what it took to win and be successful."