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As Brown Ponders Knicks Job, Marbury Guarantees Playoffs
As Brown Ponders Knicks Job, Marbury Guarantees Playoffs
Jul 22, 8:56 PM (ET)
NEW YORK (AP) - While Larry Brown pondered the pros and cons of coaching the Knicks, Stephon Marbury endorsed the prospect of his former Olympic coach taking over in New York.
Brown and Knicks president Isiah Thomas met for four hours Thursday night at Brown's home in East Hampton, N.Y., a summit the Knicks described Friday as "positive."
Marbury said he was OK with Brown taking over - or with keeping interim coach Herb Williams. Marbury also guaranteed the Knicks will make the playoffs.
"How can you not be supportive of Larry Brown being the coach?" Marbury told WEVD radio. "He's one of the best coaches to coach the game. So for me, that's a no-brainer."
Marbury and Brown clashed at last summer's Olympics, where the U.S. team lost three times and finished a disappointing third.
The Knicks said they did not expect to make any announcements regarding Brown over the weekend.
Brown would be coaching his eighth NBA team if he takes over the New York, but he has expressed reservations in recent days about possibly nudging Williams out of a job.
"If Herb was the coach, I think with our team, we'll still be great," Marbury said. "Larry brings something totally different to the table because of his experience, and everyone knows experience rules. So for him to be the coach, it'd be great."
The Knicks have made several offseason changes to their roster, dealing forward Kurt Thomas to Phoenix for guard Quentin Richardson, reaching agreement with Seattle free agent center Jerome James and drafting center Channing Frye, guard Nate Robinson and forward David Lee.
Under some prompting, Marbury went on to make a bold statement about the Knicks' chances coming off a 33-49 season.
"We're making the playoffs," Marbury said in the radio interview. "I'm guaranteeing that. We're going to make the playoffs."
Isiah Thomas waited patiently while the saga of Brown's departure from the Detroit Pistons played out, and Brown is clearly his choice to take over leadership of a rebuilding franchise that's been mediocre at best during the past several seasons.
If Brown were to take the job, he would give the go-ahead to his agent to work out the contract language with Knicks executives.
"Nothing has changed today," agent Joe Glass said Friday. "I talk to him at least two times every day."
As presently constructed, the Knicks don't fit the mold of one of Brown's typical teams.
Aside from Richardson and Jamal Crawford, both with low career shooting percentages, the Knicks' corps of shooting guards includes gimpy-kneed Allan Houston, who could be waived before November in a luxury-tax saving move, and the over-the-hill Penny Hardaway, playing out the final season of a long-term contract that pays him more than $14 million next season.
Tim Thomas, a career underachiever, is New York's best small forward, while the front line will be manned by work-in-progress Michael Sweetney and James, who brings an underachiever reputation along with him from Seattle.
Then there's defense, another key facet of all Brown's teams. The Knicks don't play it very well, and they also fail in the toughness category that Brown's Pistons teams so embodied.
Still, Brown loves challenges as much as he craves attention and new jobs.
His picture has been plastered across the back pages of the New York tabloids, and he even was interviewed and photographed at a boat harbor after returning from a leisurely afternoon with his family on the waters off Long Island, N.Y.
Photographers followed Brown's wife, Shelly, after she picked up Thomas from a small airport Thursday evening.
"If I'm speaking to them, I obviously have an interest," Brown said. "But my concern is what is best for my family and if I can do it mentally."
"I don't want to string this thing out for Herb or their organization," Brown said. "But the biggest thing, to be honest with you, is I've got to get it straight with my family what I'm going to do."
As i looked over the roster, I was thinking they may have a shot if they try to run like Phoenix did, but then I remembered that Brown will be their coach. Could/would he do that?
We can't run. Our PG can't play that kind of game. Robinson probably can. Crawford might be able to.
Actually we have shot if (this will be long)
a) Crawford and Q both shoot 42% or better
b) We come up with a 3-pt shooter - preferably 2
c) We play defense LB style
d) Jerome James plays like he did in the 1st rd of the playoffs
e) Sweetney show up in camp at no more than 260
f) Our PG doesn't turn into a dumb-*** the last five minutes of games
g) Our SG doesn't turn into a dumb-*** the last five minutes of games
h) At least two of our frontcourt players average career highs in rebounds - Q's the only player on the team who's averaged over 6 in recent memory
i) One of the rookie FC players - Lee or Frye - can play an extremely productive 25 minutes/game and averages at least 5 boards per
Not sure how many of those 9 things we need to do but at least 6 of them.
And it'll take LB to give us enough of a shot at the playoffs as a fighter with heavy hands who's down 11-0 in rds heading into the 12th.
I see us winning about 25 without Brown and maybe 35 with him.
Re: As Brown Ponders Knicks Job, Marbury Guarantees Playoffs
This is just a very interesting article with some quotes from Donnie. And let me say if Larry Brown is the Knicks coach next season they will make the playoffs. I hope the Pacers play them 4 times before February because after then they will be tough to beat
The prospect of finding enough shots for Stephon Marbury ...
... and Jamal Crawford on the court ...
... while dealing with Isiah Thomas off the court ...
... could make Larry Brown think twice about taking Knicks coaching job.
They talked about the two things closest to their hearts, family and basketball, but not necessarily in that order. For four hours last Thursday, Isiah Thomas sat inside Larry Brown's Long Island summer home trying to get inside the mind of a tortured genius.
Thomas smiled a lot and used his famous charm to put Brown at ease. The lure of a $50 million to $60 million contract didn't hurt, either. It was an informal meeting, with Brown outfitted in the black T-shirt and shorts that he wore to conduct a two-hour clinic for young campers at the East Hampton Sports Camp. Thomas wore a beige suit, no tie.
This was the easy part for the Hall of Fame player and the Hall of Fame coach, dinner among friends. Thomas and Brown have known each other since 1980 when Thomas was denied an opportunity to win an Olympic gold medal because President Jimmy Carter had decided to boycott the Moscow Games. Brown was one of Dave Gavitt's assistant coaches.
Of course, that was seven years after the Knicks won their last NBA title. A quarter of a century later they could be reunited in another seemingly hopeless cause; making New York's troubled basketball team a contender again.
"Larry will love the challenge of getting the Knicks turned around," says Gar Heard, Brown's top assistant with the Detroit Pistons. "That reminds me of when he went to Philly. He loves to come in and put his stamp on a team and make guys play the right way. When he does that, everybody benefits.
"Look at his track record. How does he do it? He just has an air about him. Players respect him. They know he's been successful wherever he's been. So they are willing to make the sacrifices he demands. He can do that with the players. They might get tired of him in two, three or four years, but initially, the players will accept how he goes about his business."
Hiring Larry Brown to coach the Knicks is, as Stephon Marbury calls it, a "no-brainer." Brown has reached the playoffs 22 out of his 26 years in the ABA and NBA. Since 2000, his teams have reached the NBA Finals three times, which includes the 2003-04 championship with the Pistons. Most NBA coaches regard him as the best in their profession.
But Brown also carries enough baggage to fill the belly of a 747 jumbo jet. He is constantly on the move, looking for a new challenge every two years or so. He is the definition of high maintenance. He is constantly seeking perfection and to feel loved in the process.
And Brown has a reputation for wearing on his bosses, whether it's openly pining for another job or pressuring the front office to make trades. Pistons owner William Davidson ripped into Brown last week.
"There was too much Larry Brown and not enough Pistons," Davidson told sportscaster Bernie Smilovitz. "Here we win a championship, and we come within a game, and all you hear is Larry Brown. I wasn't happy with that. . . . You've got to understand that whoever coaches the Pistons represents me. And I'm not going to give them somebody that's not a good person."
Clearly, Brown's personal relationship with Thomas has always been one of mutual respect. But they've never worked together. They could be a match made in heaven or a disaster waiting to happen.
Already, there are signs of trouble. Brown has told close friends in the business that the Knicks' personnel, players Thomas acquired, is a flawed group that could even keep him from taking the job. Thomas, who is sensitive to criticism, is being indirectly criticized before he has even offered the job to Brown.
"This isn't about how Larry Brown will adjust to New York," says one NBA general manager, who requested anonymity. "This is about how Isiah Thomas adjusts to Larry Brown. How will Isiah feel now that Larry is the face of the organization? Isiah has to take a step back because now it's Larry's team."
Brown's history suggests that he will want input on personnel decisions, while Thomas has worked with autonomy with the Knicks. With the Indiana Pacers, Brown lasted four years working for his good friend, Donnie Walsh. Brown's longest coaching stint was the six years he spent in Philadelphia from 1997-98 through 2002-03. With the Sixers, Billy King was the general manager but Brown had the final say.
"I never looked at it that he was demanding," says Walsh, the Pacers president. "I actually enjoyed it as the GM because when you are the GM you've got one of two choices: You can be up there, all by yourself, and try to figure it all out. Or, you can have a coach who says, 'What about doing it this way?' That's what it was like with Larry. He sparks your mind."
If the Knicks' roster is what keeps Brown from joining the team, the heat will fall on Thomas, who has made several questionable moves since being hired in Dec. 2003.
His blockbuster trade for Stephon Marbury has yet to result in a single playoff victory while Phoenix became a championship contender. Thomas traded away four expiring contracts to sign Jamal Crawford, who has not proven he has the game or the mental makeup to be an impact player.
Thomas' team is made up of one-dimensional guards and undersized power forwards. People who know Brown believe there are some players that Brown will immediately embrace: Jerome Williams, Malik Rose, Nate Robinson and Michael Sweetney.
And there are others who will make Brown storm into Thomas' office and demand they be traded: Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson and Maurice Taylor come to mind. Crawford's quick trigger could drive Brown right into retirement.
"At first, (Brown) will hate him, like he hates everybody else," Heard says, laughing. "He'll get along with him. But Larry is tough on guards. They have to have thick skin. It took Chauncey Billups a while to get it, but he did. The same goes for some of the players in Indiana. I think guys know if they stick with him, they'll be successful.
"He'll want to make a few (moves), right away. Larry will want to bring in guys he's comfortable with. He's going to want to have a say in personnel. That's the way Larry is. He'll go in and ask to have guys traded. But Donnie Walsh used to tell him, 'We're not going to do what you want. I will not destroy this team.' "
Two potential land mines that could threaten Brown's relationship with Thomas are Marbury and the team's three first-round picks. Brown's first experience coaching Marbury at last summer's Olympics began with Brown lobbying USA Basketball officials to have Marbury sent home prior to the Opening Ceremonies. Marbury stuck around for another three weeks and eventually went home with the bronze medal.
Depending on who you talk to, Brown will get the most out of Marbury just like he did with Allen Iverson in Philadelphia and Billups in Detroit. Others are convinced that Brown will try to make it work but will quickly become frustrated with Marbury and demand that he be traded.
During the Olympics, Brown asked Thomas to call Marbury each day in an effort to get through to him. Brown, a former point guard himself, wants his floor general to move the ball and cut. He wants his point guard to be the leader on the floor and be both mentally and physically tough. Ideally, Brown is looking for another Isiah Thomas.
Billups was the MVP of the 2004 Finals and would have won the award again last month if the Pistons had beaten the Spurs in Game 7. Before Brown arrived, Billups was a scoring point guard, similar to Marbury. So when Brown and his new point guard got on the practice floor together, Billups said they were two trains on the wrong path.
"You know what I mean, just waiting to collide," Billups says. "There were some struggles in my first couple of months. There were definitely some struggles with Coach Brown. But we both sacrificed a lot. We came to a happy medium and it's been a perfect marriage ever since then. My game has definitely grown playing for Coach Brown. I think I look at the game in a different light. I understand that I can dominate a game now without having to score as much as I usually do on most nights."
Billups continues: "You know, he's made an unbelievable difference in my game. I can remember when Coach Brown first started with us. My biggest struggle was knowing when to try to take it over and scoring the ball and when to kind of fall back a little bit and distribute and get everybody else involved. Now it's kind of become second nature to me and playing for Coach Brown for so long and learning so much from him, it's become second nature to me."
The changes in his game, though, weren't always easy. "It's been tough knowing that I've always really just been a scorer, knowing how to distribute and when to distribute and who to get it to at what time," Billups says. "You know, it's been tough to learn but I think I'm doing a good job of it now through a lot of experience."
Marbury said on Friday that he is looking forward to the possibility of playing under Brown. Marbury, 28, has never advanced past the first round and realizes that his legacy will be based on wins and losses. Brown may be getting Marbury at the right time.
"The number one quality of Larry Brown is that he will get the Knicks' best player to play the game his way, the right way," says an NBA coach who has known Brown for 40 years. "He will never, ever accept the way Stephon Marbury plays now. Then if Marbury does not change, Larry will go to Isiah and tell him to trade him. If Isiah doesn't, Larry will be miserable with Isiah. He will constantly work him to move Marbury. Larry is like an itch you can't scratch. He will be overbearing on Isiah and he will be overbearing on Stephon."
During the Finals, Brown told reporters that he shouldn't have to apologize for being a perfectionist. However, it is no secret that several Pistons grew increasingly annoyed that Brown was never satisfied.
One young player who felt Brown's wrath was Darko Milicic, the player taken after LeBron James and three picks before Dwyane Wade in the 2003 NBA Draft. Brown's decision not to work Milicic into the rotation is one reason why Brown and Pistons president Joe Dumars had a falling out.
Brown may be proven right about Milicic, who failed to distinguish himself in the Vegas Summer League. Brown was constantly pushing Milicic. According to a Pistons source, moments after winning the title in 2004, Brown yelled at Milicic for making a mistake in the closing seconds of garbage time.
Thomas' roster will include three rookies, Robinson, Channing Frye and David Lee as well as Trevor Ariza, last year's second round pick who played only one year of college ball. The Knicks are pushing an agenda of having a young and athletic roster.
It makes for a catchy slogan but Brown will only give minutes to those players who are tough, unselfish and play defense. The Pistons were one of the league's top defensive teams during his two seasons in Detroit. The Knicks haven't played championship-level defense since Jeff Van Gundy left town in 2001.
Brown's rotations are normally eight to nine men deep, meaning that either some of the high-priced talent Thomas acquired or some of the young players he drafted, will not play.
Thomas' camera time will also be limited. Brown, a media darling if there ever was one, has New York roots and is a walking back-page headline. He is an instant star with a proven resume who will push Thomas to the background. But it shouldn't ruin the friendship, right?
"I think Larry and Isiah can work together," Heard says. "They both want to win."