There was a time, back in the late 1980s and early 90s, when Brian Paine pretty much owned Washington State University’s Friel Court.
Not because of any great basketball talent the 6-foot-10, 260-pound gentle giant out of Cashmere High School possessed, but because of his easygoing personality, blue-collar work ethic and everyman approach to the game.
He was also an integral role player in the solid foundation a young Kelvin Sampson was building as the Cougars men’s basketball coach.
“That was a great time in my life,” Paine recalled of his days in Pullman, when “House of Paine” signs would wave wildly in the student section every time he lumbered onto Friel Court. “I loved my whole college experience and being able to interact with all the students and people in the town.”
These days, the 39-year-old Paine lives in Snohomish, where he works as a part-time mortgage broker and chief executive officer for Everybody Can Win Consulting, a Seattle-based company founded in 1998 by Winston Bell, one of his former teammates at WSU.
Bell, a physical therapist with a Masters Degree in counseling from WSU, is president of the company, which is committed to fighting the epidemic of childhood obesity by offering small group instruction on exercise, proper nutrition and character development.
“Even though Winston’s been doing this for nearly 10 years, we’re still really in the fledgling stages,” Paine explained. “We’re really well established in the Federal Way school district, and that’s where a lot of our focus is right now. But we’re hoping to take our program to a whole new level in the near future.”
Paine thought ECW Consulting might get a bit of national exposure recently when company spokesperson and 1968 Olympian John Carlos was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN’s 2008 ESPY Awards.
Unfortunately, Carlos’ comments about his involvement with the fight against childhood obesity were edited out of the taped awards program that aired.
“Still, it sounds like were going to be able to get the unedited version of his acceptance speech,” Paine said, “and hopefully we can use that to get the national exposure we were hoping for.”
Until then, Paine will continue to do what he can to help promote the efforts of Bell, who is just one of several teammates he has kept in touch with since leaving WSU.
As a four-year letter winner and off-and-on starter for the Cougars, Paine posted modest career numbers of 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. His best season came in 1989-90, when he averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as a sophomore.
The next year, Sampson brought in a quartet of junior college recruits that included Neil Derrick, Terrence Lewis, Ken Critton and Tyrone Maxey, and Paine’s playing time was sliced considerably. The Cougars finished 16-12 that winter and were hoping to land a postseason berth in the NIT.
That didn’t happen. But in 1991-92, when Paine was a senior, the Cougs won 21 regular season games – despite playing a torturous Pacific-10 Conference schedule – and put themselves under consideration for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Paine recalled the scene in the locker room following WSU’s regular-season finale that year – a blowout win over the arch-rival Washington Huskies. There was the normal post-game banter and celebration among teammates, but there was also a serious discussion about the disappointment of not having made the NIT the previous year.
“There couldn’t have been a better way to go out than by trouncing the Huskies by 30 in your last home game as a senior,” he explained. “And here we are with 21 wins, thinking we deserved a berth in the NCAAs.
“I know it didn’t come out at the time, but after that game, before the coaches came in, we all had a conversation about boycotting the NIT if we weren’t picked by the NCAA.”
When Sampson came into the locker room, he even broached the idea of an NIT boycott to his players.
“Of course, nobody was ready to stand up in front of him and say, ‘No, we’re not going to play in the NIT,’ ” Paine added. “In the end, we didn’t really buck up.”
And when the NCAA took a pass on the Cougars, they ended up in the NIT, where they posted an opening-round win over Minnesota in Paine’s last game at Friel Court before losing on the road to New Mexico in the second round.
After earning his degree that following spring, Paine landed a teaching job at St. John-Endicott High School, where he also coached the boys’ basketball team for two years. From there, he moved the Tri-Cities, where he became the first basketball coach at Southridge High School in Kennewick.
He spent three years at Southridge, while also managing an alternative middle school, where another former WSU teammate, Tommy Oatis, was a member of his staff.
From there, he went back to the Wenatchee area, where he spent seven years as an assistant men’s basketball coach under Greg Franz at Wenatchee Valley College and also taught the fourth grade at Upper Valley Christian School in Leavenworth.
It was there that Paine first got into the mortgage business and met his wife, Kyle. The couple moved to the west side of the state shortly after getting married and now live in Snohomish with their five children – Griffyn, 15, and Paityn, 14, both from Paine’s previous marriage; Logan, 7, from Kyle’s first marriage, Keiphen, 2, and Raegan, who was born just two months ago.
As the CEO of ECW Consulting, Paine works primarily out of his home, a luxury that has afforded him plenty of time to spend with his family. He doesn’t get back to WSU as often as he would like, but he did make it back last March for Senior Night.
“I got tickets to the UW game, the last one, where they honored that new group of seniors that really rekindled WSU basketball,” Paine recalled. “I had a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to get back again.”
Following his college career, Paine played in several recreation leagues and even participated in Hoopfest in 1998, when his team made it to the semifinals of the Open Division before losing.
Despite that successful run, Paine swore off street basketball and has not played in a Hoopfest event since.
“I decided that was my last year of WWF basketball,” he chuckled. “I already had accomplished what I wanted to in the sport, and I didn’t need to wrestle around with those guys on the streets again.”
Paine’s involvement with basketball has dwindled to nothing since then, but he still possesses the likeable traits that made him such a fan favorite of kids and adult, alike, during his stay at WSU.
“I’ve always enjoyed that rapport with people,” he said. “That’s why I got into the coaching in the first place – I wanted to serve kids.
“And now, as part of EWC Consulting and its mission to stamp out childhood obesity, I’m trying to take that a whole new level, too.”