Larry Brown: Go Fetch
“Larry Brown has the staying power of a fox terrier at a Frisbee
Okay, maybe I do have an ego. Not a big one mind you, more like a
mini-ego really. self appreciation-ish-ness we could call it.
I would deny it, proudly even. But considering the opening sentence
was written by me, and subsequently quoted by me on more than one
occasion, I’d have to say I agree with myself quite a bit. That
doesn’t mean I have an ego, it just means I think I’m right all the
My self image aside, the words that greet you on the top line of this
column are words by yours truly, written on November 2, 2005. At the
time the Detroit Pistons were entering their first season in three
years without Larry Brown, after two consecutive trips to the NBA
Finals. Larry Brown decided he was too old and ill to coach the
Pistons, but still stupid enough to dive head first into the sulfuric
acid pool that was (and is) the New York Knicks. After two years of a
good thing, Larry Brown went chasing a Frisbee.
I like Larry Brown, but I’m not about to watch him chase the plastic
disk and not call him a dog. Larry Brown is a champion, a winner, a
mentor to many young men, a good father, a pretty decent guy, and a
hall-of-fame coach, but he chases Frisbees and any time he takes a
phone call from an NBA franchise I have to assume he’s getting ready
to get his fetch on.
Having held the clip board for eight different squads Larry Brown has
justly earned the reputation of a coach who can work miracles quickly,
and leave for the next stop just as fast.
His tenure in New York was expected to follow his usual pattern, but a horrendous Knicks team and incompetent management was able to kick Brown out the door (well compensated of course) before he could take off. Ever since then, it’s been the count down till something round
and shiny flew through the air.
Six months into his latest retirement, something caught Larry Brown’s eye. Or rather Larry Brown caught someone else’s attention, because you can’t just play ball with anyone. The Philadelphia 76ers, following the ill conceived trade of Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets, and mired in something far worse than mediocrity, made a move to try and regain some trust from their fans and eventually some respectability on the basketball court – they hired Larry Brown as ‘Executive Vice President’.
When I see a title like that I think of the executive producer credit
in films. No matter how many times I tell people they never get it.
Executive producers don’t do anything, ninety percent of the time it’s
a fluff title, or as I like to call it an ego title. In this case it’s
not that I think Larry Brown won’t do anything, on the contrary I
think be an effective influence for the organization. But my amusement
at his official title owes to the fact that it is only a temporary
one, meant to hold him over until his real job is ready for him.
Let me say this in the most clear and certain terms I can manage,
Larry Brown will be the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers – again.
The natural response to that claim is, “uh-uh” or something like that.
Because of course at this point Brown and the Sixers are denying that
he will assume coaching duties. “At this moment, no,” Brown told the
media when asked about coaching. “I didn’t come here to be involved in
the coaching. After last year, I think I need to step away from
coaching for a while, and I’m 66. I don’t know if that’s what I’m
looking to do.” Translation: I’m not going to coach right away, but
just hold on, let me make some excuses about my age and being tired
and once I’m feeling up to it, get me a clipboard and a whistle.
You shouldn’t be surprised that Brown is denying he’s going to coach. At this point, with Maurice Cheeks (a former assistant of Brown’s), he essentially has to. Just don’t be surprised when he steps back in to
give Cheeks the boot. If you think that a legendary coach coming back
as a vice president (or president) with a coach that used to be his
assistant doesn’t sound familiar, then you must have missed that Pat
Riley/Stan Van Gundy incident last season. I wasn’t surprised when
Riley told Van Gundy to step out of the way, and I won’t be surprised
when Brown tells Cheeks to go take a hike.
If you’re starting to think I’m sounding overly sure of myself, well
maybe I am, but with good reason. I read the headline, ‘Larry Brown
returns to 76ers as Executive VP’ as ‘Larry Brown to coach 76ers.
sometime. eventually. just wait until we find a way to get rid of
I like Maurice Cheeks; in fact I think everyone likes Maurice Cheeks
(unless your name is Iverson). He’s the guy who helped that one girl
remember the words to the National Anthem. How can you not love that
guy? Unfortunately, he might have to try out for American Idol,
because he’s going to be in need of a job soon.
If you think my basis for predicting Brown as the eventual head coach of the Sixers is purely rooted in his habitual need to chase job
Frisbees, well, you’re right. But that’s not all it’s based on; my
foresight comes as much from, if not more from, the fact that it’s the
Obviously I’ve been critical of Brown thus far, but he is a damn
fine basketball coach, and he should coach the 76ers. He’s exactly what
they need right now and he has the respect of that city and
organization. He won’t have to put up with the mess that went on in
New York. He turned the Sixers around once near the beginning of Allen
Iverson’s career there, maybe now he can turn around in the post
So. maybe I don’t have an ego. Maybe, I’m not right all the time
(I’m sure I’m not). And maybe Larry Brown isn’t a dog who just chases
Frisbees. Anyone who has owned a dog knows, sure, they chase things,
but for the most part they aren’t self serving, often sacrificial, and
above all loyal.
Larry Brown is a good basketball mind pursuing a good
opportunity where he can do some good, just like he’s always done.
Do I think Larry Brown is going to coach the 76ers? Yes, without
a doubt. Do I think he should stay put more? Yes. And from the way he
talks about the stability he wants for his kids, I think he does too.
Brown could have a good thing going in Philly as a coach or a
VP. I choose to criticize him for having jumped from place to place, but I
can’t call out the man on this specific move. And I suppose if you
look at all his jobs and moves individually, and not collectively, you
gain a different perspective.
When you think about it, maybe Larry Brown chasing every
opportunity that flies by doesn’t make him a canine playing fetch – maybe it just makes him human.