No really this is an interesting article. He more or less says that the Pistons would have won the championship with or without Larry Brown. I tend to agree. If Carlisle would have stayed a third season and if the same trade had taken place acquiring Sheed, I think the Pistons still would have won it that season.
PISTONS PRIMED WITHOUT LARRY
By PETER VECSEY
HOOP DU JOUR REGGIE Miller caught me by surprise Thanksgiving. Out of nowhere he reminded TNT's viewers how the Pacers failed to make the playoffs under Larry Brown his last season and that Indiana won 59 games (58-24, actually) the next marking period under rookie Larry Bird.
Cheryl's baby brother then brazenly noted how Larry became "overbearing" at the end, much appreciated by the audience in my home theater. It would've been even better, of course, had sidekick Dick Stockton bothered to solicit an example of Brown's bossiness. But when tuned in to TV's Style Section, you learn to scoop up whatever scraps you can get and be satisfied.
Switching to the pristine Pistons, Miller offered us his before-and-after appraisal of Brown. It was nothing we haven't heard before from mere commoners. Instead of taking his opinion to an intuitive level and going up strong with it, Miller pulled up at the 3-point line. Instead of coming out from behind his freshly transplanted Happy Face, he poured softener on his fabric.
"Under Flip Saunders they're playing more relaxed and with more freedom," Miller said in essence, and then was quick to qualify. "They were a good team before he got there, but Larry taught them how to win a championship."
Yipes, I realize that's the consensus perspective of those on remote outside the Pistons organization, but with all due disrespect, your thrice weekly citadel of neutrality sturdily suggests it may very well have been the other way around, or, at the very least, a 50-50 proposition.
As I recall, the Pistons won back-to-back Central Division crowns prior to Brown's arrival and their gratification didn't stop there. I looked it up in fact; they lost to the Nets in the '02-03 Eastern Conference finals under Rick Carlisle who, by the way, didn't have Rasheed Wallace's cosmic components to help even up the odds.
Now hear this:
Except for Lindsey Hunter (part of the '01-02 Lakers when they took success to the limit), the majority of Brown's Pistons played eight years or less before capturing a title.
Brown was in his 25th year of professional coaching before finally reaching his Finals reward.
So, who really taught whom to win what? Yes, Brown won an NCAA championship in '88 as Kansas coach. Yes, he guided UCLA to a second-place finish in '80. Yes, his Nuggets took the Nets to six games in the ABA's swansong sumo series. Yes, his Sixers went to the '01 Finals and upset the Lakers on the road in Game I before dropping four straight. Yes, he won a gold medal on the '64 Olympic team. Yes, he was an assistant coach on the '80 and '00 Olympic teams.
I fully recognize and suitably offer a sitting ovation for all of the Hall of Famer's above achievements.
Still, the reality remains, Brown never prevailed in the pros until he worked the sidelines at the Palace, and the team he inherited already was pleasingly primed. Truth be told, the Pistons were much better than their record.
Let's try not to forget Carlisle's resistance to an explicit midseason directive by owner Bill Davidson to give Tayshaun Prince more of Michael Curry's minutes and to find quality time for Mehmet Okur cost him his job.
Taking nothing away from Brown's cerebral participation as it pertains to practice, teaching, preparation and out-thinking pretenders and contenders alike between the lines, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace already had proved their legitimacy by the time he showed up, whereas Prince and Okur were overdue to contribute content.
There's no getting around it; the Pistons indeed were peaking. Once Dumars pilfered Rasheed from the Hawks Feb. 19, 2004 at the trade deadline in a three-way deal involving the Celtics, it couldn't help but be a mountainous peak.
So, it's not as if Brown were forced to coach from weakness. All the wonderfully carved pieces, including the brains of the outfit, were in their proper places. If you look at what he had to work with in Detroit's "five-game sweep" of the spellbinding Lakers, it shouldn't have come as all that much of a surprise. The biggest shock was that Phil Jackson didn't try to switch benches when LA trailed 1-3.
Still, the question lingers, who meant more to whom? I say Brown was sitting on a win, that Detroit would've won the title with or without him. Before Brown's two years in the privileged playoff company of Pistons (31-17) his all-time tournament record was below the equator, 89-94, including 20-22 in the ABA.
Furthermore, a number of Brown's teams also got better after he bolted. Like the '83-84 Nets that eliminated the defending champion 76ers in the first round. Like the '97-98 Pacers who extended the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. Like the '78-79 Nuggets.
Whenever someone in Brown's flock tries to cinch their case about his celestial coaching know-how, they aim the floodlights at the Clippers. With Larry at the helm for half a semester (23-12 in '91-92) and all of the following season (41-41) they crashed the playoff party twice in a row but couldn't buy a round.
How can Reggie Miller and I not praise Brown for piloting my bent and battered Paper Clips to star-stained heights? Of course, four years later they qualified again for the after-party, escorted this time by Bill Fitch, who, incidentally, guided the '81 Celtics to crowning glory in only his 11th pro season.