Posted Dec 22 2010 10:36PM
Denver Nuggets coach Larry Brown brought Donnie Walsh to the NBA as an assistant in 1977. Sixteen years later, Walsh returned the favor by hiring Brown in Indiana.
On Wednesday, Walsh was stunned. Just as everyone in the basketball world was by Brown's sudden resignation after a disappointing start by Charlotte. The Bobcats, a playoff team last season, are 9-19 and were showing signs of collapse.
"He's had a great, great career," said Walsh, the New York Knicks president of basketball operations. "Knowing him it probably hasn't ended. I know he doesn't see himself in any other way but as a coach."
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a close friend of Brown, was disheartened by the turn of events.
"Disturbing, I guess," Rivers said. "I have a great relationship with Larry, so it's tough. He's a great coach. It's a tough business, as we have learned way too much."
First-year Charlotte owner Michael Jordan announced Brown's resignation in an afternoon press release. Paul Silas, a former coach of the Charlotte Hornets and still living in the city, was hired as the Bobcats' interim coach just hours later.
Brown's long and often controversial 38-year coaching career weaved through 13 jobs on the professional and collegiate level, with Charlotte serving as the latest but possibly not the last. Word surfaced Wednesday night through Brown's agent that he would coach again.
"Larry Brown did a great job helping Michael Jordan mold that roster and ultimately getting the Bobcats to the playoffs last year," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "His contributions to every franchise he's been with are massive, and I look for him to coach again if that's what he wants to do."
Carlisle coached at two of Brown's stops -- Detroit and Indiana. Brown coached a record nine teams in the NBA and ABA, taking all but his New York Knicks to the postseason. Brown won his lone NBA title with the Pistons in 2004, and piled up 1,327 wins in the NBA and ABA, leaving him just nine short of Don Nelson's pro record.
Brown, 70, won his NCAA title at Kansas in 1988, his last college post before returning to the NBA the following year in San Antonio. Brown brought along an unknown assistant to the Spurs named Gregg Popovich. The coaching tree that Brown belongs to includes legends such as North Carolina's Dean Smith, and Kansas' Phog Allen and basketball's inventor James Naismith.
"Larry is one of the all-time great coaches," Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said. "He's won an NBA championship, NCAA championship, he was a great point guard at Carolina, was an Olympic coach, he's done it all.
"He's opened a lot of doors for coaches like myself, because anytime former players stepped in and did well as coaches, it gave other former players a chance to do that same thing. I'm happy for him. It didn't end great for him in New York, and for him to get a chance to go back to Charlotte and take them to their first ever postseason appearance, was a good thing for him."
New Orleans coach Monty Williams said: "He's a standard for coaching. When you think about guys who've won a championship in college and the pros, how many people can you come up with? He's done it.
"He rebuilds programs. He rehabs programs, and it's kind of shocking that he was unable to do what he normally does in New York and in Charlotte. All I know is he's a genius. I've played for him and when you're around him for a long time or a couple of months that he's forgotten more than most people will ever know about basketball."
The last coach to face (and beat) Brown was disappointed by Wednesday's news. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, however, chose to focus on Brown's vast achievements.
"It's quite a career: college championship, NBA championship, Hall of Fame," Brooks said. "It's something that every player and coach wants to be able to accomplish one day."
Brown did face his share of criticism, stemming from his nomadic ways and his uncompromising personality. He has clashed with management and players at times, perhaps none more famous than Allen Iverson in Philadelphia.
Both strong-willed men grew to appreciate each other, illustrating another longstanding product of spending any significant time with Brown. Franchises, employers and players often don't fully appreciate they're no longer together.
"When a guy has been in it as long as Larry, I don't think there's any sadness in him leaving because he's left so many teams in great position," Walsh said. "He left my team in a great position. He's helped so many franchises that his legacy is taken care of."
Dallas center Tyson Chandler, a member of the Bobcats last season, said one of his career regrets is not being healthy enough to play for Brown.
"There aren't many coaches or players that can say they touched this game, made an impact and made it better," Chandler said. "He can."
Chandler also recalled a conversation he once had with Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince about their common coach.
"He told me that you're going to respect Coach for the rest of your career, and his understanding and his techniques," Chandler said. "I understand him now. Coach Brown embeds things in your brain about how to do things the right way.
"Now I can just run a drill and I can hear his voice screaming in my head, this is how you run the pick-and-roll and this is how to do it the right way. Even though I didn't understand it at the time, I will take it with me through the rest of my career."
Brown brought a level of respectability to Charlotte, and took the seven-year franchise to the playoffs for the first time last season. But it was increasingly evident lately, as the Bobcats were blown out time and again, that a change needed to be made.
"I hate it for him or it could be a blessing depending on how you look at it for him, but he's one of the best coaches we have and it happens," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Sometimes it's nobody's fault. You just need a different voice. They're not going to find a better coach than him, there's no way. He's one of the best we have and hopefully if he wants, he'll keep on going."
Tuesday's home loss to Oklahoma City proved to be the last straw for Jordan. Charlotte had the lead after three quarters, but was outscored 31-12 in the fourth to lose in blowout fashion.
"I'm sure with that team he did the best he could," Walsh said, "and I'm sure Michael had to do whatever he did or Larry left because of his own circumstances."
Most of the time, Brown does.
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