Dee Brown is a former McDonald’s All-American and Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. Brown was the Big Ten Player of the Year for the University of Illinois in 2005 and was the recipient of the Bob Cousy Award in 2006.
In this interview Dee and I talk about his 2005 Final Four run, his professional playing career and his experience at the University of Illinois. Dee is currently an assistant basketball coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
SHAFIN KHAN: What do you think was your best game at Illinois?
DEE BROWN: Man, that’s a great question. I would probably say the Michigan State game at home senior year. I had a big game. It was on national television against an institution I respect so much and that was definitely my second option. I just remember it was an electric night. I think we scored maybe sixty points and I had maybe half of them. It was just one of those special nights where the rim felt like the size of an ocean.
KHAN: What other schools did you consider besides Illinois?
BROWN: It was between Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa State was in there as well.
KHAN: Did Coach Weber just sell you on the program?
BROWN: It was Coach Self. Coach Self was there.
KHAN: What was your favorite memory in college?
BROWN: Favorite memory was going to the Final Four. I think every college athlete should want to experience that, to get an opportunity to play for a National Championship. It’s unbelievable.
KHAN: What was your favorite tournament game?
BROWN: It has to be the Arizona game. The Elite Eight game to get to the Final Four. Down fifteen with 3:57 to go. It was just spectacular.
KHAN: Walk me through your emotions in those final minutes
BROWN: You just got to stay poised and just believe in what you guys are trying to accomplish. Being down fifteen with 3:57 to go we had to really execute and play as a team. Really just do everything right and come together as a team and have the ultimate belief in each other or it wouldn’t have worked. That was a big game. I would say that was a top three game of all time. It was a really good game against a really good team in Arizona who had a lot of good players. For a trip to the Final Four you couldn’t make that up. It was pretty magical.
KHAN: If you could go back and change one or two possessions from that ’05 National Championship game what would you have done differently?
BROWN: I knew we were down 70-69 I think and Marvin Williams came in and had that tip-in. If we would have gotten that rebound the game probably would’ve been over but things go how they go man. It happens. We played really good defense but you got to finish plays. So, if I were to go back it would probably be to grab that rebound and the second would be I don’t know how much time was left but I think we were down one or two and I made an extra pass but I probably would have shot that shot instead of turning it down and making the extra pass. Those are the two possessions I think of off the top of my head. Things happen how they happen and the better team always wins. They were the better team that night.
KHAN: Who was your favorite teammate at school?
BROWN: Man, probably Deron. Deron Williams was probably my favorite teammate. We played so many games together, we were there together and had a really special bond.
KHAN: Do keep in touch with guys from that ’05 team?
BROWN: Absolutely. When teams like that come together they are brothers man. You form this brotherhood that’s special. Those guys are like my brothers and we shared some great moments together and we definitely keep up with one another.
KHAN: What is James Augustine and Luther Head up to these days?
BROWN: James I believe is still playing. James had a nice career making good money playing overseas in all the top leagues. Luther lives in Houston with his wife and kids. Roger Powell is about to get hired at Gonzaga. Deron lives in Dallas with his family as well. Most of the team is either into coaching or somewhere in the basketball world.
KHAN: Who were your basketball icons growing up?
BROWN: Easily Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. I would definitely say those two.
KHAN: What were a couple of your best memories while you were playing abroad?
BROWN: I played in a lot of different countries man. I would just say the basketball culture over there is amazing. They love basketball and I was able to win two championships. Competing in different countries and being around fans who genuinely care about basketball and to win championships and play the game you love was amazing.
KHAN: Which county did you enjoying playing in the most?
BROWN: I had a really good time in Turkey. Italy was nice as well. I would say Turkey and Italy.
KHAN: Did you play with any former college stars while you were abroad?
BROWN: I played with a lot of guys, I played on all the top teams. I played with Brad Wanamaker who is now with the Celtics. I played with Salim Stoudamire who I played in the Elite Eight with Arizona. I played with a lot of guys, there were a lot of guys who had good careers here in the states and played overseas.
KHAN: Who was the toughest guy you had to guard in college?
BROWN: It had to be Chris Paul or Devin Harris. Either one. Both of them are really good players.
KHAN: What are your opinions on Coach Weber and Coach Self?
BROWN: I played for two great coaches. They are good at what they do. That’s why they get paid the big bucks and are so successful.
KHAN: What things did they emphasize to you guys?
BROWN: Winning. Everything that they talked about involved winning. That’s why they win. A winning culture, a winning attitude. Everything is about winning, bottom line. It’s not about yourself, its about doing the right things and winning.
KHAN: What does the University of Illinois mean to you?
BROWN: It means the world. It allowed me to get an education and allowed me to display my talents to the world.
KHAN: Favorite bar down there?
BROWN: Favorite bar? I love every bar. I had a really good time, a lot of my people down there own different spots. Man, we were fortunate enough to be winning and enjoying ourselves while we were in college. Champaign is a really good college town and I spent four years growing and learning not only to be a good student but to be a good basketball player too.