Irv Brown, longtime Denver radio host, coach and basketball official, dies at 83

Irv Brown, longtime college referee and sports radio talkshow host, talks during the Irv and Joe show at Mile High Sports in Denver in 2013. Brown died Sunday at age 83.
Joe Amon / The Denver Post
Irv Brown, longtime college referee and sports radio talkshow host, talks during the Irv and Joe show at Mile High Sports in Denver in 2013. Brown died Sunday at age 83.

Irv Brown, an iconic Denver radio host whose decades-long Colorado sports career spanned from standout athlete, to high school and college coach, to six-time NCAA Final Four basketball official, died Sunday morning. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by Joe Williams, his longtime radio partner. A cause of death was not immediately known, but his health had declined in recent months, Williams said. The Greeley Tribune first reported the news.

“When you think about sports and Colorado, I don’t think there’s ever been anyone — in the entire spectrum of sports, starting in junior high, through high school, college and the pros — I don’t think there’s ever been a person in Colorado who touched as many lives as Irv did,” Williams told The Denver Post. “He knew more people than anyone ever.”

Irv Brown was born March 3, 1935, in Denver. He graduated from Denver’s North High School in 1953, where he was a standout athlete in basketball and baseball, earning seven varsity letters. He attended Colorado State College — what is now the University of Northern Colorado — where he played baseball and was center fielder for the 1957 team that competed in the College World Series.

After, he began his coaching career, which included coaching football, basketball and baseball at Arvada High School, where his 1964 baseball team won the Class AAA state title over Grand Junction, 5-3.

“We lost our first four games of the season,” Brown said, “and then it snowed to stick us inside for more than a week. My assistant coaches, Pat Pine and Dean Pilcher, got our pitchers ready and we won about 12 in a row.”

Later, Brown served as head basketball coach and assistant football coach at the University of Colorado. He also founded and coached the baseball program at Metro State, where he was inducted in their Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Coaches weren’t paid very well in those days, and I had to start something else,” Brown told The Denver Post in 2016.

Eventually, he became a basketball official, building relationships with icons in the sport, including Bobby Knight, launching a career that included officiating six Final Fours from 1969 to 1977. “Officiating college basketball was the most challenging thing I did,” Brown once said. “But I also had a lot of fun.”

He began his media career as a sports reporter on KHOW 630 AM in 1974. He was also a color analyst during the early days of a then-nascent network called ESPN.

Brown worked with Williams for 42 years as part of “The Irv and Joe Show,” which was on numerous radio stations, including KKFN 104.3 The Fan, before eventually moving to Mile High Sports radio 1340 AM.

Brown is credited with inspiring the careers of numerous broadcasters in the Denver market. On the day current Broncos play-by-play announcer Dave Logan was cut from the team, he called Brown.

“Logan said, ‘What do you think?'” Brown recalled. “I said, ‘I think you should be here by 3 p.m.’ to start in radio.”

Brown officially retired from radio in April 2016, citing health issues, but even that couldn’t keep him away. He still filled in with Williams occasionally.

“He was the godfather of sports talk radio,” said Dusty Saunders, the longtime Denver sports columnist.

Brown is survived by his wife, Pat, and three sons — Greg Brown, a secondary football coach for Auburn; Mike, a high school football coach in Arizona, and Casey — and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Brown, who seemed at ease moving from so many different careers in sports, said he had one regret in his illustrious career: not refereeing a football game.

“You always have time,” Brown said. “Just set the alarm a little earlier.”