There have been a lot of sweet moments in the history of the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen, but the sweetest of all may have been the one shared by a coach and his daughter in the glow of a championship almost 20 years ago.
During a timeout in the closing seconds of West Carter’s 58-50 victory over Shelby County in the 2000 state finals, Lady Comets Coach John “Hop” Brown wrapped his arms around his daughter Kandi, who had just hit a clinching free throw in front of 6,500 fans in EKU’s McBrayer Arena.
“I can still remember so vividly that embrace he and I had,” Kandi Brown-Parker said this week. “That was probably my favorite moment ever with him. That hug was just awesome.”
Brown-Parker will be remembering that moment when she is inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame on April 27 in Lexington.
She said she was “an emotional mess” when she found out she had been selected for the Hall of Fame because it made her think of her dad, who died from brain cancer in 2003.
“The 2000 season was sort of dreamy,” Kandi said. “Even at the time I knew it was a really special time in both of our lives, but now that I’m older, I look back and think ‘Wow!’”
Brown-Parker, who helped West Carter win three consecutive 16th Region titles, was the MVP of the 2000 Sweet Sixteen after averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds and 3.7 steals in four games.
As a senior she averaged 19.3 pts, 6.3 rebs, 4.5 assists, 4.5 steals and made first-team all-state. She finished her career with 2,599 points, 1,075 rebounds, 634 assists, and 453 steals while helping West Carter go 152-21 in her five years as a starter.
Kandi wasn’t surprised she cracked the Lady Comets’ starting lineup as a freshman “because I felt that was all I knew.”
She grew up in a basketball family. Her two older sisters, Kim and Karla, also played for their dad. “I thought they hung the moon,” Kandi said.
(Younger brother Kyle played for West Carter, too.)
Kandi said her father did a good job not taking basketball home with him.
“Our relationship was two separate entities,” she said. “At practice or a game, it was straight basketball. When we got home, we didn’t watch games on film or anything like that. We didn’t talk about basketball much.”
Was her dad tougher on her than other players?
“He got pretty hot at me a few times, but I think my older sisters got it worse than I did,” she said with a laugh. “He was younger and just learning when he coached them. I think he had relaxed a little bit when I got there.”
“Hop” Brown once said he thought Kandi’s success was due to her being “scared to death of failure.”
Kandi doesn’t disagree.
“I was just super competitive,” she said. “It was something I came by honestly from my dad and sisters. Even my mom (Sharon), who didn’t play sports, was very competitive. I remember crying after games when my sisters would get beat. It’d kill me. I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t even want to know how to fail.”
Kandi went on to have a standout career at Morehead State and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
She’s married to Gerad Parker, who was a state record-setting wide receiver at Lawrence County (1996-99) and went on to play football at Kentucky.
Gerad has been coaching college football the last 12 years. He was on Duke’s staff the past two seasons but in January signed on at Penn State as its wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.
Kandi and Gerad have four children — daughters Kolbi (6), Gwyn (4) and Rosalyn (2), and son Oliver (9 months).
Are the kids athletes-in-the-making?
“I’m hoping so,” Kandi said, noting that Kolbi is already into swimming, and that Kolbi and Gwyn are asking about basketball.
On a recent visit to the pediatrician, Oliver’s height measured at the 60th percentile, which prompted some good-natured concern on the part of his mother.
“I told Gerad we’re going to have to feed him,” Kandi said, laughing. “We can’t have a shorty. We’ve gotta have a growth spurt here.”
Sounds like something John “Hop” Brown would have said.
Like father, like daughter.
MIKE FIELDS, a retired prep writer for the Herald-Leader, writes for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association