NBA - Larry Brown has been out of coaching for all of six months. And now he's back with the Philadelphia 76ers as the Executive VP - for now.
"Larry Brown has the staying power of a fox terrier at a Frisbee convention."
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 time.
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 he'll 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 Maurice Cheeks'.
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 right move.
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 Iverson era.
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.
Originally written for HoopsVibe.com