'This has been a big, big part of our lives:' Savanna's Joe Brown honored with court dedication

Feb. 8—When Joe Brown walked into the gymnasium at Savanna, he was met with a surprise more than half a century in the making.

Family, friends, and generations of Bulldog alumni gathered Monday as Savanna Public Schools officially dedicated its basketball floor as Joe H. Brown Court.

"Being here as long as I've been here at Savanna Schools...this was nearly like a second home, because we was here so much," Brown said. "It's been good, and a good place to work, a good community."

Savanna alum and boys basketball coach Matt Murdaugh addressed the blue-clad crowd and spoke of the impact Brown had on the school and community — a ripple effect which has continued through generations.

"To this day, coach is still teaching and coaching us to be the best we can be at everything we do. He is what every Bulldog should be," Murdaugh said.

"He has taught us integrity and how to display sportsmanship in all areas of our lives. He has led by example how each one of us should try to live and teach one another," he continued. "Many of us strive to be good coaches. What separates coach Brown is: he is a good man."

Brown graduated from Savanna in 1963, played college basketball at Eastern Oklahoma State College for two years, then Southeastern Oklahoma State University until his graduation in 1967 — joining the faculty at his alma mater later that same year.

Brown led Savanna to 12 district championships, three regional tournament appearances, one regional title, one area runner-up finish, and one state tournament berth.

The Bulldogs also won 10 Pitt 8 Tournament titles, and finished as runners-up eight times. They also won eight conference regular-season crowns.

Brown retired from Savanna in 1996, but remained a staple at every Bulldog game he could attend — watching over the next generations of Bulldogs as they trample the same hardwood that now bears his name.

"Coach has had an impact on all of us here at Savanna in some way or another," Murdaugh said. "(He) has made all of us feel important and special. That is what makes a great leader, and that is what makes a great man...Since 1967 to present, there has not been another person that has taken as many steps on this hardwood as coach Brown."

Brown was full of emotion at the reveal, and jokingly admitted that his family told him he couldn't talk long. But when he addressed the crowd, he spoke from his heart.

"I don't know really what to say," he said, taking a pause. "Savanna Schools has been a big part of my family's life. And I just want to say to Mr. (Adam) Newman, (Angie) Wilson, and each one that has been involved with the school, that I appreciate Savanna Schools so much."

Brown looked around and noted how many of his former players were in attendance, asking each of them to stand. As a majority of the crowd took to its feet, applause rang out as the symbol of Brown's impact stood tall in the bleachers.

"(My players) have been very special to me and my wife," Brown said. "This old gym floor, they have been here so many times. They worked very hard, very hard for me...and I really thank each and every one of them. And I love them."

Brown continues to coach up the Bulldogs and share his knowledge, making sure to stop by a few times a week — saying he's enjoyed working with Murdaugh and his players, who are always willing to listen and work hard.

"They're a great bunch," he said.

Brown was also gifted with a specially-embroidered towel — a newer version of the one he used to carry during games and occasionally pop in a player's direction.

As the years of memories flooded to the forefront of his mind, Brown again thanked everyone that has been a part of his and his family's journey at Savanna.

"This has been a big, big part of our lives," he said, looking at his signature on the court before turning his attention back to the crowd. "I love each and every one of you."