Ron Brown was always most comfortable in a gym.
A St. Petersburg native, Brown played basketball at Dixie Hollins, St. Petersburg Junior College and Clearwater Christian College. He coached the Clearwater Christian men's team from 1980-83 before becoming a personal trainer to girls basketball players in Tampa Bay.
Brown, who died suddenly Monday at age 66, was a regular at girls high school games. In the off season he would train players at various Rec Centers throughout the area. He wasn't hard to miss.
"He liked to dress monochromatically," said Melody Brown, his wife of 38 years. "He loved to wear red from head to toe. He kind of danced to his own beat."
Word of his death spread quickly through the girls basketball world. Social media was full of praise for Brown, who tutored hundreds of players in his life.
Former Palm Harbor University standout and current University of Tampa player Julia Ingram trained with Brown from middle school through high school.
"Ron Brown was a passionate and dedicated trainer for many of the athletes in the bay area, including me and my sisters (Kaylin and Megan)," Ingram said. "He helped improve our skills throughout middle school and high school. He organized games where as high schoolers we were able to play against college players who were former high school players from Tampa Bay. These games gave us the opportunity to practice our skills.
"Not only was he a great trainer, but he also worked tirelessly to promote women's basketball in the area by posting about big upcoming games and coming out to support throughout the season. He helped shape Pinellas County women's basketball to what it is today."
A moment of silence at tonight’s Eastlake game for Coach Ron Brown... so touching @_whitneyrush @sydney_rush23 @2_Rushed @PersonalBBTrain @EastLake_GBB @CoachQuigley2 @tampaball pic.twitter.com/2zJlxWfmjl— Shelley Rush (@shelleyrush02) January 9, 2019
Former Calvary Christian player Julianna Chappell trained with Brown through high school. She credits him with making her a better player.
"He was always very uplifting and encouraging and supportive of anyone who wanted his help," Chappell said. "He taught me how to compete at the high school level and wanted to prepare players for college if that's what they wanted to do."
Tampa Catholic senior guard Lenise Santiago spent the summer between her sophomore and junior year working with Brown. Santiago will play basketball at Saint Leo in the fall and credits Brown with making her a better player.
"I've never met anyone that cared so much about the development of local talent," said Santiago, who recently surpassed 1,000 points for her career. "I spent several months working with Coach Brown and he definitely help improve my game. He always put God first and I always appreciated his passion for girls basketball. He will definitely be missed by all."
Brown also played a big role in the development of twins Carley and Savannah Plentovich. The former Calvary Christian standouts are now juniors at Gardner Webb University.
"Coach Ron supported us so much throughout our high school career and into college," Carley said on Twitter. "He was our very first trainer and it's heart-breaking to hear of his loss. I'm so thankful that he played a part in our basketball career!"
Got the dub for you coach ✊ pic.twitter.com/FxRgC9vaXr— Savannah Plentovich (@SPlentovich) January 9, 2019
It wasn't just players who had Brown's respect. Area coaches also appreciated him.
"He was just really passionate about girls basketball and wanted to see kids get better," Northeast coach Will White said. "He would work with them in the offseason. He didn't do it to get rich. He genuinely cared for the players he trained."
Palm Harbor University coach Darian Dublin said he has known Brown for more than 20 years. Dublin said Brown was a fixture at gyms all over the area.
"He was dedicated," he said. "He had an impact on the whole Tampa Bay area, not just Pinellas. He was a gym rat. He touched a lot of lives."
Brown is survived by his wife and three children, Heather, Heath and Stephen.
There will be a celebration of life for him on Saturday at Clearwater Community Church (2897 Belcher Road, Dunedin) at 3:30 p.m. Melody Brown asks that guests wear red to the service in honor of her husband's favorite training outfit.
"He loved to train the girls, he loved his family and he loved God," she said. "That's what he lived for."