Thursday, June 3, 2004
'Turnaround' coach still seeks first NBA title
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Larry Brown's "play the right way"
mantra seems to be in conflict with the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used
against Shaquille O'Neal.
"I've never done that, but if the guy is going to shoot a layup
and he's a 50 percent free throw shooter, maybe you foul him," the
Detroit Pistons coach said Thursday. "That's not bad basketball.
"That's not Hack-a-Shaq. That's hack anybody who's not a good
Brown knows there's a big difference between fouling somebody
with the ball near the basket, and intentionally fouling O'Neal
because he's shooting just 41 percent at line in the playoffs.
But he wasn't ready to reveal his plans Thursday, three days
before Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles.
"We'll see," Brown said when pressed on the topic.
Brown would say he doesn't plan to ditch his trapping man-to-man
defense against the high-scoring Lakers, at least initially.
"We got here by playing a certain way and we're going to have
to do our best to continue," Brown said. "But if stuff we do
doesn't work, you have to try things."
Brown -- who has coached with 10 franchises in 32 years --
normally takes over lackluster teams and makes them shine. But in
Detroit, he was given a five-year, $25 million deal to make a
contender a champion.
Rick Carlisle was fired a year ago despite leading the Pistons
to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1991.
Carlisle was later hired by Indiana, which was eliminated Tuesday
by the Pistons in the conference finals.
Brown has found a slice of basketball heaven in Detroit.
After six seasons in Philadelphia, where he became frustrated
with Allen Iverson's tardiness and attitude, he fell in love with the Pistons.
"It was like being with the Olympic team this season," Brown
has said. "We coach and we teach, and that's what I like."
Brown's career has taken him to the NBA, ABA, college -- and the
Basketball Hall of Fame.
"There's not many guys who haven't won a championship who have
gone in," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "His service, his
coaching ability and his influence on the game has earned him the
respect of a lot of people in basketball."
Brown is the first coach to lead seven different teams to the
NBA playoffs, and to take four teams to the conference or division
His 933 regular-season victories in the NBA rank seventh
all-time; his 81 playoff wins tie K.C. Jones for fourth; he was
coach of the year when he led the 76ers to the 2001 finals; he led
Kansas to the 1988 NCAA title; and he'll coach the U.S. Olympic
team in Athens this summer.
But Brown has never won an NBA title.
The Pistons hope to change that.
"It would be a blessing," said Detroit's Richard Hamilton, who
is averaging a team-high 21.5 points in the playoffs. "Coach has
been in this league for so long and like he tells us all the time,
'You don't always get these opportunities, so when you're here,
you've got to take advantage of it.' So, it would be a great thing
to get something for him."
For Brown to get his first NBA title, he will have to prevent
Jackson from winning his 10th.
"I'm not jealous of it, but I respect it," Brown said.