Hornets.com 1-on-1: ESPN's Hubie Brown

Hornets.com 1-on-1: ESPN's Hubie Brown
By: Clyde Verdin, Hornets.com
February 23, 2011

Prior to Wednesday’s Western Conference tilt against the Los Angeles Clippers, Hornets.com caught up with ESPN analyst Hubie Brown.

Brown has been around the game of basketball for over 55 years, and has been involved with the professional ranks since 1973. The 2005 Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee began his career coaching career first in high schools in New York before becoming an assistant in the collegiate ranks. Brown then became an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks before becoming the head coach of the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA. After the ABA-NBA merger, Brown became the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, earning coach of the year honors in the 1977-78 season.

His career would lead him to a stint with the Knicks in the mid 1980s, but one of the highlights of his career would come in his final stint as a head coach in the NBA, where in the second of his three years as the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies he turned a 28-win team the year before into a 50-win team the next and into the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors for the second time.

Since coaching the Grizzlies, and in between coaching stints, the 78-year-old has been a broadcaster with CBS and TNT, joining ABC and ESPN’s coverage of the NBA in 2005.

Hornets.com: Let’s begin with your thoughts on the Hornets’ trade of Marcus Thornton to Sacramento for Carl Landry?
Brown: I like the trade, a lot as an outsider and as ex-coach. You can never get enough quality people at the four and five positions. Right now you have solidified an excellent three-man rotation at center and power forward with Okafor, West and Landry. Naturally, Okafor has to be healthy. You can now match up and play with the rest of the people in the West. Landry gives you rebounding, points, excellent defense and is athletic. A trade like that is a no-brainer, but anytime you make a trade like that you have to give up quality to get it, and it’s unfortunate for Marcus who’s leaving, but a major get for the organization.

Hornets.com: The league was stunned with the sudden trade of Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets. What are your thoughts on that trade for both teams?
Brown: You look at the trade and you realize that Williams was shocked that he was traded. You look at what Utah got back, and it’s better than two years from now trying to sign him and they could have gotten nothing in return. Especially considering what happened with the Jerry Sloan situation and the team losing, if the team would have continued on this trend and slide out of the playoffs, there’s no guarantee that they would have gotten any value in the future. For the Nets, there’s no guarantee he’ll sign there in a year either. So if he doesn’t sign with New Jersey, the Nets are out two players and draft picks. Then it doesn’t become a good deal, but only time will tell.

Hornets.com: In the last week the league has seen Carmelo Anthony get traded to the Knicks and now Williams to the Nets. With the Western Conference losing two All-Star caliber players, what draw does the West have going forward?
Brown: Well the main thing people have to understand is that the East has been so weak. They still have four bad teams over there. In the West, Denver came out of that pretty good as a team. Now they have depth at a lot of different spots, and it sets them up for the future should players like J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin leave over the summer. To me, we have no idea what’s going to happen over the summer, and it’s going to come down to players either wanting to play for money, or play to win a championship. I wouldn’t knock the West at all because the West has the better collection of teams.

Hornets.com: In an interview with ESPN the day of the Anthony trade, you said that there is no loyalty to teams anymore from the players. After everything that’s happened so far do you still stand by those statements?
Brown: Well what has happened here in the major professional sports is that the loyalty factor is out. When I grew up, guys stayed with the same baseball team for 14, 16, some 20 years and never looked to go anyplace else. But because of the rules we have between the Players Association and the league, if you’re an All-NBA first-, second- or third-team player, now with the way that it is in our society, players now have the mentality that ‘I have a choice.’ But players today ask themselves if they are surrounded by players they enjoy playing with, do they like the style of play they’re in and how far are we going in the playoffs. If not it comes down to two things, do you chase the money and not worry about winning, or do you sacrifice the money and go to a team that has a chance for a ring? Obviously we can’t answer that for every player, but everything changes with a lockout. If a hard salary cap comes, which I believe the league needs, nobody is going anywhere because the teams won’t be able to afford to bring in these high salary players.

Hornets.com: Does the league need to have more teams with legitimate chances to win championships than having just the same teams vie for the title every year? And does it hurt that a lot of these players are leaving for larger-market teams?
Brown: Television numbers are off the charts right now. You look across the board and the numbers are staggering, and that’s huge in the advertising world. Why is it so good, because you have teams like Miami, Boston, Orlando and an exciting Oklahoma City team and the Spurs, and we haven’t even gotten to the Lakers yet. When they’re on, they are pretty much on every doubleheader, or the main games on Sunday afternoons. You have to ask yourself if this is good for the smaller teams and the answer is no. But it comes down to whether or not these teams want to compete, and if the owners want to reach into their pockets and shell out the money for these players. Now if that situation doesn’t work and they continue to lose money, then that’s a tougher situation when you need to have deep pockets to want to go up against these large market teams. I’ve been in the league since 1973, and it’s always been top heavy. People forget that during the 1980s, the Lakers were in the Finals eight out of 10 years, but all the power was in the East. You couldn’t get out of the East it was so tough some years. At the end of the day, every person will look at this situation differently.

Hornets.com: How do you see the Eastern Conference playing out the rest of the year?
Brown: If you look at the trade Charlotte made with Portland sending Gerald Wallace it doesn’t change things much. I don’t think the Bobcats were going to make it with the way Indiana is playing this year because they are playing great. I see Indiana being eighth, Philadelphia seventh and the Knicks sixth. At the top, it will be tough to knock Boston out of the top spot because they are solid throughout the line.

Hornets.com: What are the dynamics of the Western Conference heading into the final stretch of the season?
Brown: Well the way I look at spots five through eight, with only two losses separating those teams, the Hornets have enhanced their chances tremendously with getting Landry. You look at Denver and they are still thinking about making trades at this point and they have a brutal March schedule. Utah, without Williams, could slide. The teams you have to look at are Memphis and Phoenix. So instead of talking about the last four playoff teams, you have to talk about the last six teams because it could change in a heartbeat. For the fan, it’s going to be incredibly exciting, but for not for teams that don’t make the playoffs because somebody is going to be disappointed. Especially when you have teams accustomed to being in the playoffs yearly and somebody’s going to have to pay the piper.

Hornets.com: Which will be the more interesting story to end the season? If the Spurs can continue on their pace, or the new power struggle in the East?
Brown: Nobody knows what’s going to happen in San Antonio because they’ve been very fortunate with limiting injuries, but I think they are the most interesting story from here on out. Anytime you can start the same five guys with three possible Hall of Famers, and all the games that they have on their resumes, we have no idea if they can hold up. But their bench production is outstanding and they have the defense to back it up. And with two wins on the Lakers already, they have a great shot at locking up that number one seed.

Hornets.com: Finally, the Hornets have surprised a lot of people so far this year, and it seems like the organization is starting to make a turn for the better. What does the franchise have to do to continue that trend?
Brown: Well I’m not privy to any of the management situations going on, but the front office staff did a great job of getting role players like Willie Green, Jason Smith and Jarrett Jack and the rest of the bench. You get Landry now to help at the power forward and center positions. Now you look at the coaching staff and the terrific job of selling the team on defense and those numbers are outstanding. But most of all, the coaching staff has done a remarkable job of selling game preparation, getting players to pay attention and accountability. And those things will get better and better. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet and try for that fifth seed, because if you get that this season will have been beyond successful.

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