Brown finally lands elusive title
Larry Brown had to wait 22 years for this moment — and throughout it all he did it his way. He never gave in to anyone or anything.
On Tuesday night the Detroit Pistons captured the first NBA title for the 63- year-old Brown by beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 100-87, in Game 5 of the Finals at The Palace.
The win was a culmination of a complete team effort, something Brown has tried to instill in every one of the 10 total pro and college teams he has coached since 1972. Every Detroit starter scored in double-figures in Game 5, led by Richard Hamilton’s 21 points.
“I don’t think there are many teams in my life that I’ve had the opportunity to coach that didn’t try to play the right way,” said Brown.
“It’s about players playing the right way, showing kids you can be a team and be successful. This is great for our league.”
To prove the team effort even more, point guard Chauncey Billups was named the Finals MVP, having scored just 14 points in the title-clinching game.
“I think that is the uniqueness of this ball club,” said Brown. “You can point to a lot of different individuals on this team who would have been a good choice (for MVP).”
The victory marked a number of milestones for Brown, who became the oldest coach in NBA history to win a title and the first to capture both an NBA and NCAA crown.
“I haven’t been through 48 minutes like that,” said Brown. “I’ve always enjoyed the moment, the bigger the game the more I enjoyed it. But the way this group came together, this was a strange night. I had no idea it would feel like this.”
Brown had also coached the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks to the NCAA championship.
“I remember Chuck Daly told me something one day. When you finally do win one you won’t appreciate it until you’re driving down the highway one day and you’ll get a big grin on your face. I had that feeling when I coached Kansas later on. I’m sure I’m going to have it now.”
This was the first season for Brown at the helm of the Pistons. He came to the club after six up-and-down seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he is more remembered for his differences with star guard Allen Iverson than for the team’s run to the 2001 NBA Finals.
Brown always tried to instill the team effort mentality with the Sixers, and for the most part he was successful. But the consistent clashes with Iverson, who wanted to be the center of the offense, proved to be all Brown could handle.
He ended up inheriting a Detroit club that had advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season. Brown’s club finished his first year at the helm with a 54-28 mark, good enough for second in the conference.
All season, however, Detroit seemed to be one player shy of what it would take to go all the way. Finally, one day in February that player — Rasheed Wallace — came to Motown and checked his ego at the door.
“He made our whole team better in every way,” said Brown of Wallace, who was the center of much turmoil during his time in Portland. “There’s no way I’d be standing up here, or any of us would have been in this situation without him.”
However, without Brown’s leadership on the bench the Pistons wouldn’t have been here either. He outcoached Phil Jackson, who had won nine previous NBA titles as a coach, and did so in complete opposite fashion.
“Since this is toward the end of it for me, and since we did it against such a quality coach and a quality team, it’s a pretty incredible feeling,” said Brown.
By Greg Wiley, TSN Staff Writer