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RIP: A year later, USU Eastern remembers beloved coach

October 8th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By the USU Eastern Eagle staff

Sometimes it seems like it was yesterday, while other times it seems like it has been an eternity since the sudden death of beloved coach and mentor Brad Barton on the one-year anniversary of his death Oct. 4. What remains are the memories of the man whose life was cut short too soon, but whose legendary principals live on in so many people whose lives he affected in countless ways.

USU Eastern basketball coach Brad Barton, left, died at age 31 a year ago.

On Sunday, his Facebook page was updated with a photo of him as a young child and another of him as an adult. In his handwriting on 12/24/09, he signed Brad Barton, 6’ 1-1/2” and wrote, “Tomorrow is a promise to no one.” Whether it was deja vu or just drawing the short straw, Barton’s 31 years provided a lifetime of memories to everyone he came in contact with.

Oct. 4, 2011

It was a typical Tuesday night on Oct. 4, 2011, for The Eagle staff. The front page was almost laid out and all the pages were being filled with what would turn out to be mundane stories in comparison to what was unfolding in the BDAC.

Basketball coach Barton had not shown up for practice that afternoon so his assistant coach, Brian Edelstein, drove to his apartment in north Price to check on him. He found the coach, who fought diabetes since he was 14, dead in his bathroom.

Tears poured in buckets throughout campus that week, as the disbelief of this tireless, energetic and driven coach was remembered. His Facebook page was filled with a makeshift memorial to honor him as a friend, son, brother, player, coach and most important, as an incredible human being. Hundreds attended his funeral at the Weber State Dee Events Center in Ogden and his candlelight vigil in Price. He was buried in a basketball uniform, in a wooden casket reminiscent of the wood strips on a basketball court with his team signing the outside of it.

September 2012

His September 2012 Facebook posts included, “Today I will seize the day with passion because I know if Brad Barton were here, he’d do the same. How many lives can be touched by one man? Brad knew and I now know the power of one….” by Travis Fey. Former Eagle staffer and basketball player Jasmine Petit, posted, “You might not be here physically, but you will always be in my heart.” Others wrote “always remembered, never forgotten.” Another wrote, “this is hard, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and miss you. You have been that person for me and I know you always will be. Playing for you tonight….”

On campus this week, Athletic Director Dave Paur said, “It’s hard to believe Brad has been gone for one year. It seems like yesterday he came busting into my office, ‘Coach P, this is my all-time favorite book; I love it and know you will love it too.’ That book is still on my desk, a reminder of a gentle giant whose memories will always be with me.”

Dean of Students Alex Herzog added, “When a drop of water hits a pond, it creates ripples that will cover the surface of the pond.  Brad was that drop of water and USU Eastern and Price was the pond. His passion for life resonated with everything he did and he touched a lot of lives in our community. Brad was a great guy, good friend and sorely missed.”

Former Eagle editor and assistant baseball coach, KC Smurthwaite, said, “I remember speaking to Brad the day before he died. He was pretty up-beat after having a good day of practice. He really loved basketball and think he would have moved on to bigger stages after Eastern. One thing I will always remember is that he always made an effort to talk to me. I can still remember the goofy face he would make when he would ask me ‘What up, Coach Smurf?’ I know he impacted several students and athletes outside of the basketball program.”

USU Eastern Vice Chancellor of Administration and Advancement Brad King added, “It is hard to believe that it has been a year since Brad’s passing. It will be a difficult week for many people both on campus and for those that felt Brad’s influence in their lives in other settings. It is amazing to look at the far reaching effect that he had on people’s lives and not just the young men with whom he associated.

“His laugh and his ‘Live the Dream Attitude’ were absolutely infectious.  I will always remember his do-the-small-things-well speech. He always said 
if you do the small things right every time, the things that even your mother can do, you will be in every game. Brad was a winner in every sense of the word.  We will continue to miss him.”

All American USU Eastern basketball player and team captain last season, Chase Flint, said, “Since Brad’s death, my life has changed a lot. I wasn’t sure who to turn to. But I say something or do something everyday that reminds me of him and it makes me happy of the influence he had in my life that I can have in other people’s life.

“I use his quotes all the time just about optimism and positive attitudes,” Flint said. “When I talk to friends about him, always something like Barton would have loved that or that reminds me of what Barton used to do. Even though he’s gone, he still has an impact in my life and many other people’s lives. So he’s gone but not forgotten.”

Even though it’s hard to imagine Barton being in a better place, he always told everyone he was living the dream. And now that he is living the dream in a better place, we are reminded of the lyrics of Billy Joel’s song: “Only the Good Die Young.”

“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait/some say it’s better, but I say it ain’t./I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, sinners are much more fun…/and only the good die young.”

RIP. We still miss you, Coach.


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