Cliff Brown made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I knew that he was to be honored for his career as an assistant coach at Minneapolis North with Head Coach Robin Ingram in the 1990s, during which the duo led the Polars to three consecutive state championships from 1995-97.
The event was to take place as the defending Class 1A state champion Polars — led by Hall of Fame Coach Larry McKenzie — were to host Rushford-Peterson on Alumni Day.
More on Brown’s offer later.
During halftime of the Rushford-Peterson game, Brown joined former Polar standout Markram El-Amin at midcourt and soon found himself surrounded by 30-plus former North players that included Harlan Hill, Damon Brown, Jay Hall, Derek Reuben, Jabbar Washington, Chris Rainey and Khalid El-Amin. Ingram, who coached the North from 1988-1999, was also in attendance.
After a few kind words from Markram El-Amin, Mackenzie, who was honored before the game for reaching the 350-win mark, presented him with a plaque as the crowd and North players filled the gymnasium with applause.
“This is very special to me,” a humble Brown said. “It means a lot to me.”
Brown, himself a North alum, made sure that the crown paid homage to the man who started North’s dominance in the 1980s.
“Can we have a moment of silence for coach Tony Queen?” he requested quietly.
Queen, who coached from 1976-1988, winning the Class AA crown in 1980 along with seven consecutive state tournament appearances, passed away in 2012.
After the crowd honored Brown’s request, the current Polars got back to business on the court, extending their 36-20 halftime lead to a 73-48 victory led by Isaac Johnson’s 23 points and 16 from Odell Wilson IV.
Now back to Brown’s offer.
I was simply going to send him a message congratulating him on being honored, but he wasn’t having any of that.
About a day before I was planning to send him an inbox message on Facebook congratulating him on being honored as a North alum who touched many lives in the Northside community over the past few decades, he beat me to the punch with a message of his own:
“They are honoring me at North High School on Saturday, February 18. If you can I would love for you to be there brother,” Brown messaged via Facebook. “You and your father (Kwame McDonald) always said nice things about me, and I would appreciate it more than you will ever know.”
Thanks for the offer, Cliff!
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.