Dee Brown will spend Mother’s Day in a gym coaching her daughter’s AAU basketball team. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
And, no, it’s not just because she gets to coach her daughter Kalani, one of the top basketball players in the nation. She has another reason.
“The busier I am, the better it is for me,” Brown said. “It’s a bittersweet day. It’s a happy day for some, but for those whose moms have passed on, it can be a tough time.”
Dee Brown’s mother, Brenda Jackson, died eight years ago, but she lives on through Brown.
“She was a lady with a lot of spirit and a lot of energy, and I see that same spirit and energy in Dee,” said Dee’s husband, P.J., who played 16 seasons in the NBA. “Her mom was always there for her, and now she is always there for Kalani.”
In addition to Kalani, the Browns have two more daughters (Whitney, 22, and Briana, 19) and a son (11-year old Jevani). But Dee Brown has plenty more.
There are the dozen or so on the Salmen High basketball team (where she serves as an assistant coach) and the 25 members of her Lady Pumas AAU team that is playing in a tournament in Atlanta this weekend.
“I look at all of them as my daughters,” Brown said. “I tell them all the time that I am on them hard because I care. It’s about more than basketball. I want them all do well in life.”
Her players appreciate it.
“She is like my second mom,” said Hayley Pichon, a senior at Salmen. “She gets you prepared for the real world, and she is always there for you.”
Brown admits, at times, there aren’t enough hours in the day. She calls herself a “domestic engineer” — a fancy name for how she handles her busy schedule.
“I’m probably the busiest stay-at-home coach/mom there is,” she said with a laugh. “But I like to give 110 percent of everything I am doing at all times. I don’t know any other way.”
Kalani, a 6-foot-6 junior, gets to see both roles — mom and coach — first-hand.
“She taught me basically everything I know,” said Brown, named both Louisiana’s Miss Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year.
She was 6 years old when she first started playing for her mother.
“It’s been an interesting dynamic,” P.J. said. “There are times when they get on each other’s nerves a little but. They have been able to feed off each other and bring out the best on the floor. Dee has done a good job of knowing when to push the right buttons, and Kalani has been able to receive that and it has made her better.”
It was tough at first. She wasn’t quite sure if she should call her “Mom” or “Coach” in practice. It didn’t take long for her to learn, though.
Kalani got tired in practice and asked her mother for money for Gatorade.
“I would tell her I am in coach mode, and she will have to go to her dad and get money,” Dee recalled. “She looked at me like, ‘What?’ ”
Ten years later, and Kalani still doesn’t get any special treatment at practice or during games. Or even right after the games, for that matter.
Salmen won its second straight Class 4A state championship in March.
“All the other girls are jumping up and down and hugging their parents and getting that love, and she is the last one to get that because I am still in that coach mode,” Brown said. “She knows when we get to the car, though, she will get all the extra stuff that everybody doesn’t get with the hugs and the ‘Oh, I’m so proud of you’ from her mom. I appreciate that she has been so unselfish with sharing me with all the other girls.”
Kelani said she doesn’t mind.
“It’s like one big family, and they are like my sisters,” she said. “She goes the extra mile for them like they are her own.”
Brown has one demand for all of her players on Mother’s Day: She wants each player to set some time aside to send a holiday greeting.
“If they don’t have the money, they can just get some construction paper and write ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ ” she said. “It may not be a mother. It might be a grandmother or an aunt or someone else in their life that represents why we celebrate Mother’s Day.”
Dee Brown won’t get to make a card Sunday. But she knows her mom will be in the gym.
Brenda Jackson was always in the gym for Dee’s games, first when she starred at Salmen and then when she played at Louisiana Tech.
“She was a sports nut,” Brown said. “She was just a very supportive mom like I am with Kalani. My mom really put a perspective on motherhood and being involved in sports.
“People say you don’t miss the significance of people until they’re gone. But she lives with me every day because something reminds me of her every day.”