‘He always had time for everyone’

Longtime coach Berkeley Brean dies after battle with cancer

Credit: 
Jeff Chan

St. Mary’s Cathedral on Johnson Street was full to bursting yesterday morning as friends, family and community members gathered to say goodbye to longtime Kingston football coach Berkeley Brean.

“There are many good teachers and many good coaches but not all of them are good men,” said Fr. Raymond de Souza during the service. “Berkeley was a good man.” Brean died Saturday, at the age of 63, after a three-year battle with cancer. After more than thirty years teaching art and coaching football at Frontenac and LaSalle secondary schools, he spent the last eight years as an assistant coach with the Golden Gaels.

The football field at LaSalle Secondary is named in his honour.

Queen’s offensive coordinator Warren Goldie said Brean’s trademark was the pre-game speech he always had for his players.

“He’s always been one of the great storytellers.”

Goldie recalled one speech Brean gave players two years ago in which he described his own experience watching his father free his mother from a car wreck, displaying strength he never could have found if not for the desperate situation. He told players they would need to find that kind of strength to win.

Goldie said he used the story to motivate players before Saturday’s game in Ottawa.

Quarterback Danny Brannagan, who played under Brean for the past two years, said the coach had a way of taking many different kinds of stories and making them relevant to the moment.

“It was like a little extra motivation; something else to think about, why we were playing the game.”

He made a point of looking out for everyone on the team, Brannagan said.

“He’s been around for a while so he always had great insights for everyone around, not just the players he was in charge of coaching,” he said. “He always had time for everyone.”

Goldie played junior football under Brean for three years at Frontenac Secondary school before joining him on the coaching staff. The two coached together at Frontenac for three years and they worked together at Queen’s for six.

He said making the transition from student to colleague was almost seamless.

“You would think for most people it would be different, but for him, I think he treated everyone on the same level.”

Goldie said Brean enjoyed watching the boys he coached turn into men.

“He wanted to see everyone excel and succeed.”

He said Brean’s leadership style was one of mostly quiet encouragement.

“If there was an issue he felt needed to be stomped out he did it, but he wasn’t a yeller and a screamer.”

He said Brean was always willing to let people explain themselves fully before offering criticism.

Goldie said that, as Brean got sicker, especially over the last year, he made it clear he wanted the team to treat him the way they always had.

“This year he wasn’t any different. He always asked us to just go about it day by day and not to make anything different for him.”

Brannagan said, “He never really wanted it to be known [that he was sick].

“He would apologize for missing practice even though we all knew he was missing it for a very good reason,” Brannagan said.

Brean wasn’t able to attend the Gaels last games, De Souza said, but he listened to the final game on the radio before he died.

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