Gerald Brown, the former Frederick Douglass and Loyola College basketball player, was shot and killed June 7; on Friday, June 21, mourners gathered at his funeral. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun video)
When Jimmy Patsos was recruiting Gerald Brown III to what is now Loyola University Maryland over a decade ago, he wanted to let the former Frederick Douglass boys basketball star guard know one thing: As coach, he wouldn’t hold anything back.
“Gerald, I tell it like it is,” he remembered saying. At that point, Patsos didn’t know whom he was dealing with. “Gerald looked right at me and said: ‘I like to tell it like it is, too. We'll get along fine.’ ”
At a funeral service Friday at Empowerment Temple in Northwest Baltimore, friends, family and members of Baltimore’s “basketball fraternity” remembered Brown, 34, as a beloved father of three who was just as gifted with his wisecracking sense of humor as he was with his scoring touch.
Brown died June 7 at Sinai Hospital after being shot on West Forest Park Avenue. Police still are investigating the shooting.
“It's confusing to me,” said Rodney Coffield, who coached Brown on the 2001-02 Douglass team that went 28-0 and claimed Baltimore City and Class 3A state titles. He challenged those in attendance, many dressed in all white, to affect people as positively as Brown had.
“Just think about one little thing you can do that would prevent this from happening. Touch somebody else,” he said. “The bottom line is, we shouldn't be here today. We shouldn't be here today.”
Brown was honored with citations from Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott and the Maryland General Assembly, but the reach of his life was obvious from the hundreds who came to pay their respects.
Members of Douglass’ championship team reflected on how just one year with Brown, who transferred to the school from Dunbar, was worth a lifetime of memories. Brown would joke about teammates’ fashion faux pas and enliven practices with his spirit. He was the life of the party on road trips and a “bucket” in the team’s biggest games. As a junior during Douglass’ unbeaten season, the 6-foot-3 guard earned first-team All-Metro honors.
Off the court, he was like a brother to many.
“I've lost a lot of people,” said Ramona Dingle, who went to Douglass with Brown and was one of his best friends, through tears. “But this one really hurt.”
After two years of Big East basketball at Providence College, Brown returned to Baltimore, arriving at Loyola in 2006. It wasn’t a simple transfer back home, said Patsos, who jokingly recalled that Brown had to “talk his way into school” because of a few “issues” that had arisen at the Rhode Island school.
But it didn’t take long for people to believe in Brown. The Greyhounds’ academic adviser needed just 20 minutes before he came to Patsos with a full-throated endorsement: “We love Gerald. He’s the greatest.”
Brown was so popular in Baltimore basketball circles, he made Loyola a summertime destination for some of the city’s brightest stars. Patsos chuckled as he recalled Loyola’s president, the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, telling him one day, “Uhhhh, Jimmy, there’s a Bentley in my driveway.” Patsos had given him his word that Brown would be an asset to the school.
“I told you Gerald's going to make it better,” he remembered telling Linnane.
The give-and-take continued with Patsos, as it did for so many who had grown close to Brown. During one road trip in conference play, Brown helped persuade Patsos to book a five-star hotel for the team — “the most expensive in New York.” Instead of practicing, they made the most of their swanky digs, lounging around in robes.
"And we kicked Manhattan's ass," Patsos said to laughter.
After twice earning All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors at Loyola, Brown played professionally overseas for several years. He later returned to Baltimore, where he became well known in the city’s comedy scene. He performed stand-up and hosted comedy nights at clubs, and his viral videos on Instagram drew tens of thousands of followers.
Terry Hosley, a fellow comedian and former standout guard at Parkville High School, was the last of Brown’s friends to speak Friday. He acknowledged that he’d initially found it difficult to collect his thoughts on Brown’s passing. But Hosley said he could still hear his friend — and that Brown had chided him for even considering not getting up to speak.
“You couldn't be sad around Gerald,” he said. “You got a problem or anything like that, he just lifted you up.”
The two had been working on a movie together when Brown was killed. Hosley wishes they could’ve finished filming, he said, “so I could just have a little bit more to hold on to besides the memories I got.”