(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Years from now, basketball fans will remember where they were and exactly what they were doing when they heard the news on July 18, that Larry Brown was no longer going to be the head coach of the Detroit Pistons.
Welcome back from Sarcasm Land kids. The fact that Brown, once again, is leaving a job before his contract is up comes as a surprise to exactly no one.
If the Brown and Pistons union was indeed like a marriage, then Brown’s open flirtations and backdoor meetings with other NBA teams would surely warrant a Lorena Bobbit-like reaction.
Pardon the tired stand-up comic line, but ‘What’s up with that’? This isn’t the space to try and psychoanalyze Brown’s constant need to find acceptance in every city in North America, but why this move?
Both parties spin that this was because of Brown’s health, but if he isn’t in some capacity with another team when the season starts, I’ll buy Knicks season tickets.
Why would any team pursue this egomaniac? (I’m attempting to write this column without using the words gypsy, nomad or ramblin’ man. It’s harder than it seems.) Sure, he might give a quick fix, but it’s only temporary. He generally doesn’t leave franchises in better shape than when he got there.
The Pistons will be in good shape, because of GM Joe Dumars. Dumars deserves the recognition for putting a championship team together that Brown was lucky to lead. You can’t tell me that if Rick Carlisle – who was unceremoniously dumped after leading the Pistons to consecutive 50-win seasons before Brown batted his eyelashes in the general direction of Motown – would have had the same team, they wouldn’t be back-to-back champs instead of one and runner-up.
Isiah Thomas has been holding the Knicks head-coaching job in order to see which way Brown would flop. Thomas puts the moron in GM, so he’ll pretty much hand the keys to Larry. If I were him, the only way I would sign Brown is if it were a multi-year contract with the stipulation that he never coach another NBA team again.
That might be unconstitutional, but someone needs to put him in check before I have to root for him on the Grizzlies’ sideline.
Of course, Memphis’ GM is Jerry West, who used to be Pat Riley’s boss in Los Angeles. Once you get past that ham-handed segue, realize Riley is also another ego in need of curtailing, as the Miami GM has implied that he might want a more “hands-on” role with the Heat next season.
Many people have taken this to mean he wants to coach again. All current coach Stan Van Gundy did was take Miami to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. If Dwayne Wade and Shaq would have been healthy, they might have been NBA champs.
So, I guess Riley thinks he can do better. This despite the fact that he liked his team’s chances so much last year, that he quit coaching in the middle of the season and retreated to the safety of the luxury boxes.
I guess the Diesel and a budding superstar in D-Wade changed his mind. Maybe he can squeeze every ounce of offensive life out of this team and drive their tired carcass to the Finals like he did with the Knicks.
Or maybe not. Riley almost ruined the entire league with his bruising, scoring-challenged teams in New York and Miami.
He won’t end the speculation by simply saying he wouldn’t coach next year. Instead, he engages in doublespeak and gives evasive answers to simple questions. Maybe Van Gundy should get the van and gundy on out of town before it’s too late.
Riley always reminded me of the Gordon Gekko character from Wall Street and Brown looks like an angry accountant in search of his next audit.
Maybe that’s why they’ve both experienced a modicum of success in the NBA, because after all it’s a business.
And sometimes, it’s bad business.