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Thursday, June 3, 2004
'Turnaround' coach still seeks first NBA title

Associated Press

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 free-throw shooter."

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 finals.

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.