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USU-Eastern head basketball coach, 31, found dead in apartment

October 5th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By David Osborne Jr.
Eagle Sports editor

PRICE, Utah—Once in a great while a coach comes along who not only wins, but also inspires his players and those around him. Utah State University–Eastern lost one of those coaches on Tuesday when police found men’s basketball head coach Brad Barton, 31, dead in his apartment.

Assistant coach Brian Edelstein and Barton’s players became worried when he didn’t show up to practice, and no one had heard from him since Monday afternoon, according to the Price Sun Advocate. The state medical examiner was investigating the cause of death on Wednesday.

Affectionately known as “Coach Brad,” Barton achieved many of his life goals and did what he loved until the day he died. An article in the student newspaper, The Eagle, titled, “Assistant basketball coach plans to stay in profession for life,” reported, “He said he has always known that he wanted to play as long as he could and coach until the day he died.”

Barton played high school basketball at Davis High in Kaysville, Utah, and then attended BYU-Hawaii for two years before transferring to Weber State, where he captained the 2003 conference championship team. After finishing at WSU, Barton played professional European basketball for a year in Switzerland and then returned to Utah and started his coaching career.

Barton was an assistant coach at Viewmont High School, where he coached the sophomore team, which won the regional championship. He then moved to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, where he assisted coach Mike Ostlund.

Then-CEU head coach Chris Craig recruited Barton to be his assistant. After the Cinderella season of 2009-2010, Craig left CEU for Northwestern Colorado University, and Barton became interim head coach for the 2010-2011 season. After coaching the team to a 23-7 record, Barton was offered the head coaching position in June.

“Basketball is my No. 1 passion,” Barton said. Anybody who knew Barton knew that basketball ran his life—he ruptured his Achilles tendon recently, but refused surgery, explaining that it would take him away from his team and recruiting duties. Instead, Barton walked with a distinct limp.

When legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden died, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, “He wanted to win, but not more than anything … My relationship with him has been one of the most significant of my life … the consummate teacher, he taught us that the best you are capable of is victory enough, and that you can’t walk until you crawl, that gentle but profound truth about growing up.” Many at USU-Eastern felt the same about Coach Brad.

Although many were touched by Barton, some shared their feelings about his death on Facebook.

USU–Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson wrote, “We mourn the passing of Coach Brad Barton. The campus and community are in shock. Brad was an important part of not only the athletics program, but of the entire USU-Eastern family. This was clearly demonstrated at this morning’s student meeting with over two hundred and fifty students and staff in attendance. It was a real tribute to his influence.”

Peterson said the university will provide transportation to Barton’s funeral in Ogden on Saturday, and a campus memorial service is being planned.

“Our immediate concern is for the welfare of our student athletes,” Peterson wrote. “We have provided grief counseling and other support services to deal with issues of personal loss.”

Peterson also said that decisions about the basketball program will be postponed until next week.

Others also posted on Facebook.

“When I heard the news that you were gone my heart was saddened,” wrote Becky Archibald, director of dining services. “You will be deeply missed by many. May God’s peace fill our hearts knowing you’re in his care.”

Jan Thornton, director for Disability Resource Center, stated, “Coach touched the lives of so many people. Words can’t express how much he will be missed.”

Assistant baseball coach KC Smurthwaite wrote, “Whenever I walked in the athletics office he always went out of his way to say hi.”

Journalism professor Susan Polster, The Eagle faculty adviser, said, “Coach Brad was one of the smartest people I have ever met. His philosophies about life reflected the reality of competition, whether it be a moral argument or a simple discussion about its role in making great human beings. He said great coaches were always hungry to win. It was not about the paycheck, it was about winning with players that become family to you. His players were his family.”

Athletic director Dave Paur said, “I remember our last conversation, we were just chatting and I asked him about the team, he said, ‘Coach, I like my team …’ that is the last thing I remember him saying, ‘I like my team.’”

Students also added their thoughts.

“Coach Brad was an amazing man,” said Eagle editor Valeria Moncada. “He always made time for everyone and anyone no matter who they were. He always knew what to say to students to make them feel better about anything and make them give everything their all.”

Fellow Eagle editor Jasmine Petit remembered, “‘You’ve got to be mentally tough, boys.’ I swear he said that every practice. He didn’t have to ask you to give your all. You just did.”

Former Eagle photo editor Scott Frederick accompanied Barton to games in Kansas in 2010 and to Southern Idaho in 2011. “Coach Brad Barton was a blue collar guy that was everybody’s best friend,” he said. “Anyone around Brad was family. Serious about his players on and off the court and serious about staying positive, upbeat and jovial.”

His athletes may say it best, though.

“He was a true warrior for many different reasons,” Walker Gale said. “He always kept it real and found a way to help me dig deep and find something within myself that I didn’t know I had. He was a man of immense courage and discipline and was the most competitive man that I’ve ever met. With his passing comes great responsibility for our team, but now we have even more fuel for success.”

Fellow player Dominique Lawrence said, “Coach, you did something that only GREAT people do, you changed the world of those around you and as we go out into the world we will take you with us, and through all the people that you have changed you will be on every inch of this planet. I LOVE YOU MAN.”

And Cameron Evans quoted Barton himself: “‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do.’ The one and only Brad Barton.”

Other students reflected on how Barton had touched their lives. “I’m just sitting here thinking about the first time we met, how you came and picked me up from the airport,” Jonathan Mills wrote, “how the first time you saw me play and told me how much you loved how hard I played and how I reminded you of me. You was more than a coach to me, you were my friend and family.

“I will never forget how we spent Thanksgiving dinner together with your family and how they accepted me as family,” Mills wrote. “I love Brad. I will always think of you whenever I have a basketball in my hand. RIP.”

Nicholas Thompson added, “I would not be the man I am today without you. You taught me so much. I’ll never forget all the times we had man. You were one of my best friends. Every time I step on a court, I know you will be there. I love you Brad.”

And not only basketball players will miss Barton. “Coach Brad was a person that was loved so much and would anything for anyone, not just the basketball players,” wrote former CEU baseball player John Morgan. “If you went to CEU, Coach B was your friend.”

Volleyball player Kasey Day agreed. “Remember all those volleyball matches in the BDAC?” he wrote. “You, me versus [Coach Chris] Craig, Chels … we won. Thank you so much for the different outlook on life, sports, religion, etc. You are awesome.”

Another volleyball player, Alexis Adams wrote, “I remember summer school in ‘09 at CEU sitting in Nick’s [Thompson] room talking about life. You asked me what my favorite scripture was and I couldn’t choose one. I know my favorite one is now … Phillippians 4:13 … I can do all through him, who gives me strength. You are an incredible man who gave strength to many. You will be missed, but never forgotten.”

I would also like to express my appreciation for coach Barton. As Eagle sports editor, I spent plenty of time in Coach Brad’s office, probably more then I should have, but he made me feel like I was the most important person in the world and the only one that mattered.

Coach Brad, you will always be our coach. You will be greatly missed and always be appreciated by all of those that have had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with you. You always saw the glass as half full, and spread that throughout campus and wherever you went.

Rest in peace, Coach Brad Barton, March 5, 1980, to October 4, 2011.


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