Tim Brown wants his teams to compete and win each year just as much as any other high school basketball coach.
For that reason, Brown, the head coach at North Thurston High School since 1993, is one of eight active coaches in South Sound with more than 300 victories in his career.
In the 25 years he has been with the Rams, he has 326.
But, as so many of Brown’s coaching colleagues would tell you, that is far from what’s most important.
“He’s in it to develop kids,” said Capital coach Brian Vandiver, one of Brown’s rivals in the 3A South Sound Conference. “He wants to win and compete as much as everybody. But that’s not the only goal for him.
“He gets genuine joy out of the times they’re .500, just as much as he does when they’re winning like this year.”
This year’s team, loaded with seniors, is perhaps one of the best Brown has had during.
He has a pair of big scorers in Jeremy Spencer (21.5 points per game) and Clay Christian (20.2), who have led the Rams to their first appearance in the Class 3A state regionals since 2012.
This is the sixth time in Brown’s career he has taken North Thurston to the state playoffs, and he is one victory away from returning to the Tacoma Dome for the first time in more than a decade.
The eighth-ranked Rams (21-3) play seventh-ranked Seattle Prep (16-10) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School for that chance.
“I’m just happy for him,” Curtis coach Tim Kelly said. “I think it’s cool. It’s great to see guys like him be successful. I hope they can get one this weekend and get to the Dome.”
Kelly, who won back-to-back state titles with Lincoln (2001-02) and another with Curtis (2013), has known Brown since he started at North Thurston.
The two were younger and a bit more fiery, Kelly says, but Brown’s teams still have the same respectable characteristics they did then.
“He did a good job with his team,” Kelly said. “They were always well prepared and they played hard. We had some great battles. So you have quite a bit of respect for those kind of guys.”
Brown’s group in 1994 was the most statistically successful during his coaching tenure, matching a school-best fifth-place finish with a victory over Newport. The Rams also placed fifth in 1978.
Brown’s Rams took eighth six years later, but have been eliminated before trophy games in their three appearances since.
This group, Brown says, is another with big potential. The Rams started this season 19-0, and won the 3A South Sound Conference title before finishing fourth in their bidistrict tournament.
“The way the ball moves in their system this year, they’re almost impossible to stop at times,” Vandiver said. “The trust they have in each other is really the best I’ve seen in years offensively.
“That’s because of (Tim). Obviously he’s fostered that trust.”
In many ways, Timberline coach Allen Thomas agrees, Brown’s players are a reflection of him on the floor.
“They all show the same type of character he has on the court — great sportsmanship, and they always play to the last buzzer,” Thomas said. “It shows how much fight he has.”
Thomas, in his sixth season at Timberline, said he might not have pursued being a head coach if not for Brown.
Several years ago Thomas, a River Ridge graduate, bumped into Brown during a JV contest between the Hawks and Rams.
Brown told Thomas how much joy coaching brings, regardless of how games play out.
“He talked about the relationships and how they last forever,” Thomas said. “The wins and losses come and go, but the relationships go on. He really hit home with that.”
In many ways, Brown reminds his colleagues of his father, Ron Brown, whose 722 victories at Centralia during a 56-year head coaching career are the third-most in state history.
“He’s very much like his dad,” Vandiver said. “Obviously his dad is one of the great legends in this state, but Tim has all of those same qualities.”
Like his father, Tim Brown says some of his favorite teams during his career are teams that didn’t make the playoffs — but man did they work hard, he said.
“Tim does it the right way,” Vandiver said. “He grows the program. He takes the kids he has and maximizes their potential.”
Again, a quality so many coaches have praised his father for. Another similarity? Both Browns have always rooted for the success of their peers — when they’re not sitting on the opposing bench, of course.
“He genuinely wants other teams in the league to do well when they’re not playing North Thurston,” Vandiver said of Tim Brown. “He will give advice. He will send you film.
“I’ve called more than once to get advice on an opponent we’re playing in the playoffs. I can tell by what he says he is genuinely rooting for us.”
Thomas has felt the same camaraderie, despite coaching for the Rams’ crosstown rival. And he says, as Ron Brown never left Centralia, he can’t see Tim Brown leaving North Thurston.
“You have to enjoy coaching to be in it for so long,” said Kelly, whose 450 wins in 25 years is third among active South Sound coaches.
“To stay there and be loyal to North Thurston … that speaks to the kind of guy he is and the kind of coach he is.”
Even during down years, Brown has stayed consistent. But this is certainly an up year, and Brown says he is proud of this group — who came in four years ago as talented freshman — and the toughness and resilience they’ve showed all season.
“I think, as a coach, you’re excited for every group of kids,” Brown said. “Whether they’re in the state regionals or they’re the state champs — it doesn’t matter. You’re excited for the opportunity they have.”