When I think about Kevin Brown as my sports editor at The Herald, the first thing that always pops into my mind is my interview with him for the newly-created Everett Silvertips reporter position in 2003.
Kevin wasn’t given the green light to hire a new reporter until about three weeks before the Tips’ inaugural season began, so he needed someone who was available on short notice. I had worked for Kevin for three years at the Skagit Valley Herald prior to Kevin becoming The Herald’s sports editor in 2002, so we had a previous working relationship, and the fact I was just up I-5 in Mount Vernon meant there were no relocation concerns.
So he reached out, despite the fact I’d been to a grand total of one hockey game in my life. And with little time for formality, our interview was conducted while the two of us shot hoops at a local school playground.
That moment encapsulated two of Kevin’s main characteristics as a sports editor. First, he was willing to put faith in his charges, even if said charge still had some learning to do. Second, anyone who conducts a job interview on a basketball court is a true sports person through and through.
Kevin’s tenure as sports editor at The Herald came to an unfortunate end last week. His position was one of the victims of the COVID-19 epidemic, as four of the seven full-time employees in the sports department were laid off.
But Kevin’s 18-year stewardship of The Herald’s sports section leaves a legacy of commitment to local sports, treating employees and story subjects with humanity, and a genuine love of athletic competition.
Kevin is a product of Snohomish County, having graduated from Meadowdale High School in 1975. He became the sports editor at the county’s signature newspaper in 2002 following nearly 20 years at the Skagit Valley Herald as a sportswriter and sports editor. I remember him telling me the sports editor position at The Herald was the only job that would have lured him away from the Skagit Valley Herald.
What Kevin brought to The Herald was a focus on the local, whether that was high schools sports or community sports.
“Kevin was a great guy to work with,” said former Herald sports editor Kirby Arnold, who worked under Kevin as the paper’s Seattle Mariners reporter from 2002-12. “The main thing I think is, ‘What a great fit he was at The Herald.’ Coming from the Skagit Valley Herald he had such a deep understanding of the value of local sports, especially high school sports, and that’s something that was such a backbone of our paper.”
Kevin’s tenure spanned an uncountable number of high school state champions, the rise of the internet in journalism, the compiling of The Herald’s top 50 athletes in Snohomish County history, multiple financial shocks that rocked the newspaper industry, and, of course, the Seattle Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII. Throughout it all Kevin conducted himself with grace and a sense of humanity.
“In our world — and in the news business — it is rare to work with someone who is so respectful of others,” said Neal Pattison, who as The Herald’s executive editor from 2007-19 served as Kevin’s boss.
“For more than 12 years, I was the guy who had to give Kevin a lot of bad news,” Pattison added. “His budget was being cut. His deadlines were being tightened up. His staff was shrinking. And Kevin always gave a sigh and went to work making the best of the situation.
“In addition to his work ethic and temperament, Kevin was a walking almanac of Snohomish County and Seattle area sports. He knew all the names. He remembered the games and the seasons. Kevin is a big reason The Herald has impressed readers and sports journalists with its sports coverage over the past decade or more.”
Kevin’s respectfulness was evident in the way he treated the members of the sports department. He believed in those who worked for him and gave them the freedom to shape their beats.
“He always was willing to listen to a story idea,” assistant sports editor Chad Davis said. “At the same time, he was always willing to tell you he didn’t think it was a very good idea. But he was always willing to listen. No matter who you were, whether you were a (copy editor) or a (part-time employee), if you had a story you were passionate about he’d tell you to go ahead and look into that. He tried to give everyone the opportunity to do what they liked to do, and that’s not always something that happens in this profession.”
But most of all, when I think of Kevin as my boss I think of him not as a newspaper guy who happened to work in sports, but as a sports guy who happened to work for newspapers. Whenever I came into the newsroom before going on assignment, I tried to budget in an extra 30 minutes because I knew the conversation with Kevin would inevitably turn away from what was happening on my beat turn toward what was happening in the sports world at large, be it the Seahawks, the Chicago Cubs or Gonzaga men’s basketball.
“Deep down, Kevin is just a big sports fan,” Davis said. “I think he loved that he was able to do this as his profession.
“I’ll never forget, when the Cubs made the World Series, he took time off to go down to, I think it was Portland, because his dad is a huge Cubs fan,” Davis added. “It had been so long since the Cubs had been in the World Series, and he wanted to watch some World Series games with his dad. You think about the connection between boys and their dads, and here was Kevin in his 50s and his dad in his 80s, and he’s going to watch baseball with him because he knew it meant that much to his dad.”
What’s next for Kevin? He said he’ll see where God leads him. He’ll be seeking work, but he’s also looking forward to doing volunteer work for his church and making use of the Biblical counseling certification he received three years ago — and he’s excited to be a regular sports fan again.
While Kevin’s doesn’t know for certain what the future holds for him, one thing I know is that he was a tremendous advocate for Snohomish County sports during his time as The Herald’s sports editor. His presence will be missed by both by the local sports community and those who worked for him. Including me.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.