Randy Brown makes Bulls' players his top priority
In January, Brown joined scout Pete Myers and director of college scouting Matt Lloyd at the 2011 D-League Showcase in South Padre Island, Texas. (Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Adam Fluck | 02.10.2011
Before Randy Brown accepted the position as the Bulls’ Special Assistant to the General Manager last September, there were a few phone calls he had to make. Namely, he needed to reach out to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.
The players, who had grown accustomed to having Brown just a few seats down during games and working with him regularly at the Berto Center, were concerned about the change and what it meant. But as Brown told them, it was with their interests in mind he was set to embark on a new role.
“I wanted to explain to them that I was making a good move into a position within the front office, but it was something that will continue to help them in the future,” said Brown, a 12-year veteran of the NBA. “At first, it was tough not being on the bench and working on the floor with the players. But the role I took on was the one I wanted.”
During his 12-year NBA career, Brown appeared in 655 contests and finished with averages of 4.8 ppg, 2.2 apg and 1.8 rpg in 17.6 mpg.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
Now, approximately six months later, Brown says the transition has been smooth, crediting team’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, John Paxson, and General Manager, Gar Forman, for their guidance in getting him acclimated.
Paxson, Forman, and Matt Lloyd, the Bulls’ Director of College Scouting, have gotten Brown up to speed on scouting, the NBA’s salary cap, and the business of basketball in general. But at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing for Brown.
“Every day is different, but I’m at every practice I’m able to attend,” said Brown. “First and foremost, that’s my major concern—our players and their wellbeing. I keep a close eye on how they do on and off the court.”
Many of Brown’s responsibilities are behind the scenes and unnoticed by the public eye. One of his top priorities is to continually enable the players to do the right thing and offer his assistance whenever they want it.
“The coaches have the players for three hours a day most days,” said Brown. “That leaves 21 hours each day in which we want to make sure their lives are filled with good decisions and the right frame of mind. If I can help eliminate some stress or help one of the players make a good choice, then I’m doing my job. Our staff has a good relationship with the players—if they need anything or their families need anything, we’re here for them.”
Paxson and Forman make “great tandem”
Brown estimates he’s been with the team for 90 percent of their road games this season, but those trips aren’t always limited to Bulls basketball. With Lloyd’s help, he often sneaks away from the team to catch a college game, as he did in Los Angeles last week when he attended UCLA’s win over Southern California at Pauley Pavilion.
He’s constantly on the phone, because building relationships—whether it is with one of the players, their families, or an agent— is taken very seriously at the Berto Center. Brown also assists with opposing NBA player personnel reports and keeps an eye on the D-League, though scout Pete Myers does the majority of updating there.
For Brown and Forman, it’s a relationship that began in the late 1980s. Forman was an assistant coach at New Mexico State, and Brown, who attended Chicago’s Collins High School, was one of his recruits. Brown played two seasons for the Aggies, 1989-90 and 1990-91, before being drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the second round (31st pick overall) of 1991 NBA Draft.
The two were re-united 13 seasons ago, when Forman joined the Bulls as a scout and Brown was in his fourth of six seasons with the team.
“Gar’s perseverance has gotten him to where he is today,” said Brown of Forman. “He works extremely hard at it and he challenges me to get better. There is a lot to learn, so I’ve had to pick it up quickly. I’m constantly in his office listening to him on the phone to hear how he conducts conversations with agents or other teams’ personnel.”
Factoring in Paxson and his experience, including 11 NBA seasons and six years as the team’s GM, it’s easy to see how Brown has gotten the hang of things so quickly.
“He and John make a great tandem,” Brown said of Forman and Paxson. “John works as hard as anyone. He’s constantly out watching college games. Gar spends countless hours in the office trying to better our team for the future.”
Learning curve for Brown
Despite his professional career—which hit its pinnacle in 1995-96, when the Bulls recorded an NBA-record 72-10 mark and captured the organization’s fourth of six world championships—the transition for Brown from an assistant coach who focused on player development into the front office wasn’t easy.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” said Brown. “It’s a dream come true for me. I’m right in my backyard working for a great organization.”
“The first couple of weeks I was scouting, Gar sent me out and told me to give it my best shot,” recalled Brown. “I was doing my reports and thought they were pretty good. Then he showed me his report, one of John’s reports and a few others, and I was totally embarrassed. It was at that point, I had to re-tool my thinking about how I scouted. And since then, I’ve worked hard and gotten better.”
Not being on the team’s bench this season has also been an adjustment for Brown, who no longer works on the floor with players like he did as a member of the coaching staff. But he is quick to applaud the effort of first-year coach Tom Thibodeau.
“In terms of basketball, it’s 100 percent his area to put a good product on the floor,” Brown said of Thibodeau. “When you look at where our team is right now, it’s clear he’s done an outstanding job to this point.
“At the same time, management is equally as committed to winning,” Brown added. “We want to enable Tom and his staff in their efforts and we’re constantly thinking about what’s next, whether it’s tomorrow or two years down the line.”
The aforementioned off-court enabling also comes into play when Brown is asked about his playing days, specifically questions about sharing the court with the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. When that happens, he’s happy to oblige, but he’s mindful that the Bulls are a team working towards creating their own identity.
“I try not to drown them with the Chicago Bulls stories of the 1990s,” said Brown. “I want them to live their lives and create their own legacies. They’ll build their own team in their own way.”
Derrick Rose is one of the players with whom Brown regularly works. Recently, Brown had a conversation with Rose in which Brown stressed the importance of weightlifting and taking care of his body.
“What he does out on the court is remarkable,” said Brown of Rose. “But when you factor in that he’s playing 40 minutes a game, running up and down the floor at a high speed and crashing to the ground at times, it can take a toll on your longevity.”
Brown acknowledges he didn’t play as many minutes as Rose does now during his NBA career, but had he done so, he likely would not have lasted a dozen seasons without the proper weight training.
“The good thing about Derrick is that you tell him something once and he listens,” said Brown. “I’ve already seen that he’s taken what we spoke about to heart.”
As for Rose’s exponential improvement this season, you can count Brown among those surprised when during the team’s media day, Rose rhetorically asked, “Why can’t I be MVP?” But he now knows that Rose is legitimately in that discussion.
“His learning curve is incredible,” said Brown of Rose. “I’m excited and shocked that he’s gotten this good this fast. The scary part about it is that he’s going to get better.”
“I was blown away when he said that,” admitted Brown. “But for as much talent that Derrick has, his learning curve is incredible. I’m excited and shocked that he’s gotten this good this fast. The scary part about it is that he’s going to get better. As he learns to control the game without scoring and gets to the age of 27 or 28, he’ll be at the very top of his game.”
Brown cites one of Rose’s offseason accomplishments while training and playing with USA Basketball as one way he separates himself from most players in the game.
“He said that he was going to become a better three-point shooter over the summer, and he did it,” Brown continued. “It’s remarkable when a player sets his mind to doing something like that and then does it. The only other person I’ve ever seen or heard to do something like that is Michael [Jordan]. He used to say it all the time, ‘I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that.’ Then, he’d actually go out and do it. I see those same qualities in Derrick.”
Ready for the stretch run
As the NBA All-Star break approaches, the Bulls find themselves with a double-digit lead in the Central Division and among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, all of this despite Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missing significant time due to injuries.
With Boozer back in the mix and Noah expected to return later this month, Brown and the Bulls are optimistic about the second half of the season. While he is eager to see how the team’s big men play together when fully healthy, Brown is also appreciative of the job reserves have done in their absence.
“Our bench players have shown they’re ready,” Brown said. “They’ve been game tested. It’s only going to help us once we get Joakim back. He and Boozer are going to be great together because it will be difficult for teams to key on one guy. In looking ahead to the playoffs, we’ll be right there in the thick of it.”
Regardless of what the team’s future holds, Brown knows how fortunate he is to be a part of it all. He is quick to express his gratitude to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as Paxson and Forman, for the opportunity he’s been granted. And the Windy City native plans to make the most of it.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me to go from a player to an assistant coach to player development and now my current role,” said Brown. “It’s a dream come true for me. I’m right in my backyard working for a great organization. I’m on a long list of former players that this organization has reached out to and embraced. I feel like the fans appreciate the work we put in during our career and this, in a way, is our chance to help pay them back.”
But what makes Brown the most appreciative is that he’s got a family with whom to enjoy his success.
“It’s been a rough road at times,” he conceded. “I can’t give enough credit to my wife, Tamara. She’s the backbone of our family and she’s kept us all together as basketball took us from one place to another. To have this job now where I’m closer to home with more stability means the world.”