Larry Brown: Master Builder
After spending two years in the NBA's penthouse, Larry Brown is returning to his natural element in the just-opened New York Knicks training camp. Fine-tuning a 50 game-winner and bringing them to one NBA title and almost a second isn’t the real Larry Brown. Taking reclaimation projects and turning them into playoff teams is. Larry has found the right place; Madison Square Garden might be the NBA’s marquee address but the Knicks these days are more like one of the league’s junkyards.
The bigger the project the better, and Brown has everything he needs to start with: inflated salaries and egos, horrible chemistry and probably a diamond in the rough or two just waiting to be uncovered. Look for him to prod, badger and make adjustments until he has a team that knows how to play the right way.
The new Knicks coach is an old hand at this business, He’s been sprucing up broken down NBA teams for 30 years. Some of his reconstruction jobs have been sublime and others simply ridiculous. All of them have succeeded.
- Between 1981-3, Brown improved a woeful New Jersey Net club by 25 victories and took them to two consecutive playoff appearances.
- In 1989, Brown orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history when the San Antonio Spurs won 35 more times then in the previous season.
- Larry took over the reins of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1997 and by his fourth season in “The City of Brotherly Love” the Sixers had improved by 34 games and were playing in the NBA Finals.
- In “the mother of all coaching jobs”, Brown led the Los Angeles Clippers to their only playoff appearances in history in 1992 and in the following year. For this, a place in the basketball Hall of Fame isn’t enough. They should put Larry’s statue front of the building.
In contrast, Brown has never seemed totally comfortable when on top. After taking the Sixers to the finals he over-tinkered with his roster, and the team slumped the following season. He did the same thing in Detroit after last year’s championship, and the Pistons’ weakened bench may have been the difference between victory and defeat this year. Sure, the general manager actually makes the trades, but Brown has a say in matters.
Brown is the ultimate high maintenance coach and Piston owner Bill Davidson couldn’t accept the fact that genius often comes with a price. In Brown’s case, melodramatics, a wandering eye and an emotional roller coaster from start to finish are all part of the tab. The result was a tabloid newspaper’s dream divorce.
In New York, Brown will be teaming up with another guy who has never shunned the limelight. Isiah Thomas has been on center stage since taking over as the Knicks GM while the club’s been practically off stage in the Eastern Conference standings. Isiah will need all his street smarts to keep up with Brown and maybe that won’t be enough. In any case, this should be one Broadway show that shouldn’t be missed.
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