Cholla football coach Ed Brown declined an offer to coach the UA’s track and field team. He would have been the first black coach in any D-I sport.

P.K. Weis / Tucson Citizen 1977

Over the next 24 days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s 25 best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Ed Brown, who started Cholla’s program from scratch and led the Chargers to their first postseason victory.

No. 24: Ed Brown

School: Cholla

Years in coaching: 1968-1987

Local record: 91-98-2

Achievements: After 11 seasons as an associate coach under Lou Farber at Pueblo, Brown got his shot as a head coach at the brand-new Cholla High School in 1968. Success didn’t come quickly with the new program, but Brown — a former Marine — instilled character and work ethic in his players. If someone didn’t show up for practice, he would drive around town that night to check up on them. Brown was also remembered for his honest approach to the game, which was illustrated in the 1978 season with TUSD caught in a teachers’ strike. With Tucson High’s coaching staff on strike and its team unable to compete, Cholla could have picked up an easy win. Instead, Brown instructed his players not to practice Thursday, causing the game to be declared a “no contest.”

Brown left his military service to enroll at the UA in 1954, where he earned a spot on the varsity team as a freshman. As an ironman he played wherever the team needed him and became an All-Border Conference guard for three seasons but also played linebacker.

Brown turned down a chance to play professional football after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1958. He also declined a chance to become the UA track coach so he could coach football.

Memorable moment: In 1980, for the first time in school history, Cholla made the state playoffs when the Chargers finished 8-3 with future Denver Bronco Vance Johnson leading the way. Brown was named The Star’s Coach of the Year after that season and coached Cholla to the playoffs three more times. In 1987, Brown’s last season, Cholla beat Flagstaff 58-6 for the first playoff win in program history before being eliminated in the state quarterfinals against Glendale Cactus, the eventual runner-up.

From the archives: “That man means so much to me; he is like a father. If it weren’t for Ed Brown, I wouldn’t be here today getting ready to play in my second Super Bowl. There is no way I would be here without his help and guidance. He is one of the greatest high school coaches this country has ever had. I was sorry to hear that he had decided to retire.” — Johnson in the Jan. 29, 1988, Tucson Citizen

Big number: 1. Not only was Brown the first coach in Cholla’s history, but he was the first black coach in Tucson.

Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 23 in Saturday’s Star.

Chuck Constantino