Monday, May 15, 2006

Larry Brown on the Road Again?

Most of the New York Media outlets (including the Daily News, Times, and Newark Ledger), starting with Peter Vecsey at the Post, have been reporting that James Dolan is leaning toward a buyout of Larry Brown’s contract in the wake of his dismal 23-win coaching debut in Madison Square Garden.  While this would be understanding following the biggest NBA train wreck since the Pacer’s cursed ’04-05 campaign, numerous factors may have led to this.  From my vantage point they were, in reverse order of influence:

Larry’s Nomadic Nature:  The Knicks make stop #11 for Brown, and he has a reputation for backdoor exits to greener pasturers.  Specifically this time, numerous outlets connect him to Golden State due to his East Hampton connections to owner Chris Cohan.  The Maloofs in Sacramento, fresh off closing the door in Rick Adelman’s face, are very likely to have the interest to go along with the deep pockets needed to pull in Brown.  The New York Times also mentions the Charlotte Bobcats as a possible destination.  However, unlike last year, Larry Brown himself has not tipped his hand if he has a different “dream job” on the brain.

Isiah’s Coaching Impetus:  Speculation that Isiah has wanted the New York coaching job has been around since he was brought in the organization.  It stood to reason that Thomas would build his perfect roster as a GM and then slide into the bench to lead them directly.  He has remarked to the press that he sees himself coaching again, but was vague about when that might be.  Still, Isiah did not sign Larry Brown to a 4-year deal simply to oust him.  This was a disaster and reflects poorly on Thomas as well.

Larry’s Collegiality:  Tony Soprano’s mother may be a fair (or unfair, I don’t know the man) comparison to Larry Brown.  Since leaving the Pacers, Brown has apparently alienated far more players and management than he has won over.  He left on horrendous terms with Pistons management, nearly caused LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to disavow their future Olympic careers, and somehow created greater disharmony this season.  Almost no one on the Knicks’ roster was safe from caustic public chastising, with the top persona non grata’s being Trevor Ariza, Jerome James, and of course, Marbury.  One had to wonder if Larry even tried to develop a rapport with his charges, leading to what I sense was the biggest reason…

Larry Brown versus Isiah Thomas:  These are two powerful NBA personalities with reputations for politicking, controlling, and duplicitousness.  Half the columnists in America predicted one or the other would not last Larry Brown’s 4-year contract because both would attempt to undermine the other and either Isiah would try and take over the coaching or Larry Brown would try to stage a coup for team president.  Mike Greenberg of ESPN/ESPN Radio has pushed the notion this year that Larry Brown was purposefully allowing the Knicks to fail this season as a way of discrediting the assembled roster and Isiah.  I believe that’s somewhat accurate, in that Larry did set up his system, told the players their roles and what he wanted, but allowed them to break away and tune him out.  

To entertain a slight tangent, where the coaching line is drawn with player rapport is an interesting subject.  Larry Brown and George Karl both have top-notch ratings as coaching minds, yet both have also developed a track record of grating the nerves of their stars.  While this is a non-issue in college by comparison, being able to coddle egos has become just as important to NBA success as teaching.  Phil Jackson may be the best at incorporating both as a coach.  

Brown has been a notorious roster tinker-er during his career, and would seem to prefer a less ambitious GM to work with.  It would be an understatement to say that the two sought out different types of players.  

So where will this send Larry Brown if the buyout does indeed take place?  While the Golden State rumor seems to have the deepest roots, I would think it would be a dubious fit.  If Larry Brown brings one thing to the sidelines, it is tremendous pressure on the point guard position.  Baron Davis does not figure to be the Eric Snow-type PG that Larry demands, and the relationship could be as acrimonious as it was with Iverson and Marbury.  I have trouble seeing the Brooklyn-raised coach head to small-town Charlotte, and smallish Brevin Knight also would not be an ideal Brown point man.  Mike Bibby of Sacramento would seem to be more coachable and in line with what Larry demands, and though Bonzi Wells could represent a powderkeg, the Kings could be attractive as a project.  I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that other franchises might make a play for the future Hall of Fame coach either.  I would suggest, though, that they make note of the fact that he’s being paid by two franchises if they open contract negotiations…