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The Ties that Bind Larry Brown to John Kuester and Everything

10/20/2009

A few years ago, a friend suggested I make a big chart like the cops use in mob movies. All those photos, with all those lines showing the structure of relationships among networks of people.

Only instead of researching a crime family, I should chart Larry Brown and the long string of coaches who surround him.

It is, my friend suggested, a helpful way to understand many things that happen in the NBA, and would be especially helpful today.

Basketball's inventor, James Naismith, would be up there, with a line to Phog Allen who learned from the originator. Allen has a direct line to Dean Smith, who coached ... Larry Brown. 

Then the chart would start to get really wide, because the list of people who coaches who have played for or worked under Brown is immense. This is only the beginning:

  • San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was once Brown's assistant, and best man. (And Cleveland head coach Mike Brown used to work under Popovich in the job Popovich used to have under Brown.) 

  • Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry coached under Brown in San Antonio, on a staff with Popovich and San Antonio executive R.C. Buford. 

  • Boston coach Doc Rivers played for Brown when he coached the Clippers.

  • New York's Donnie Walsh was once Brown's assistant coach, in Denver, where Paul Silas (LeBron James' first NBA coach) played for Larry Brown.

  • New Orleans coach Byron Scott played under Brown in Indiana.

  • Atlanta coach Mike Woodson was an assistant to Brown in Detroit.

  • Former Detroit coach Michael Curry played for Brown in Detroit. 

All of that is background for the news about the Pistons' newest head coach. ESPN's Marc Stein has sources saying the new coach of the Detroit Pistons will be John Kuester.
If you made your big board of the Brown basketball coaching family, many lines would connect Kuester and Brown:

  • Kuester assisted Brown in Detroit and for his entire six-year run in Philadelphia.

  • Just like Larry Brown, Kuester played college basketball for Dean Smith at North Carolina. Kuester played from 1973-1977.

  • In October 1978, when Larry Brown was the head coach of the Nuggets, the team signed Kuester -- who played the better part of three seasons in the NBA -- to his second NBA contract, which expired at the end of season (when Brown was replaced by Walsh).

Here's where that gets especially interesting. I know it seems like ancient history now, but Brown left the Pistons in a hail of bitterness. Brown and the Pistons reportedly severed ties after Brown betrayed the Pistons by reportedly courting a job as team president of the team Kuester is leaving, the Cleveland Cavaliers, even as the Pistons were in the 2005 Finals. (Brown then didn't get the job with the Cavaliers, and landed in New York and now Charlotte.)

Of course, that was four years ago, and the Pistons' owner Bill Davidson has since passed on. Is the reported hiring of Kuester a sign that the Pistons have mended ties with Larry Brown and his family tree of coaches? Perhaps.

Or it's a sign that it's hard to find a good coach who doesn't have ties to Brown.