Print and Go Back ESPN Classic [Print without images]

Thursday, June 2, 2005
Updated: June 26, 8:46 AM ET
What Brown Can Do for You

By Bob Carter
Special to

Signature Game

June 15, 2004 -- The Los Angeles Lakers supposedly had a dream team with future Hall of Famers Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton and coach Phil Jackson. The Detroit Pistons, a team full of castoffs and coached by Larry Brown, had a dream defense that quieted the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

In Game 5 at Auburn Hills, Detroit held L.A. to 41.3 percent shooting, outrebounded the Lakers 50-36, built a 23-point lead after three quarters and clinched the championship with a 100-87 victory. Ben Wallace got 18 points and 22 rebounds, outplaying O'Neal, and guard Chauncey Billups was voted the Finals MVP.

The favored Lakers averaged 81.8 points in the five games after scoring at a 98.2 clip during the season. "We didn't depend on making shots," Pistons forward Darvin Ham said. "We depended on making stops."

It was the first NBA title for Detroit in 16 years and the first for the 63-year-old Brown in 21 years as an NBA coach. The championship made Brown the first coach to win both NBA and college (Kansas, 1988) titles.

"Since this is toward the end of it for me," Brown said, "and the way we did it against such a quality coach and a quality team, it's a pretty incredible feeling."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Brown's family moved four times in his first six years.
  • He played basketball as a youngster with his older brother, Herb, and other older players at a Long Beach recreation center.
  • He made the Long Beach High School varsity by the middle of his sophomore season. In his senior year he scored 45 points in a win over future Duke All-American Art Heyman and Oceanside.
  • Brown also played football and baseball in high school. He was voted "most likable" and "cutest" in his class.
  • Comedian Billy Crystal grew up in Long Beach and watched Brown play high school basketball. "Larry Brown was someone I wanted to be when I grew up," Crystal said.
  • Brown's high school coach, Bob Gersten, was a former North Carolina player and helped him get recruited by Tar Heels coach Frank McGuire.
  • Brown averaged 11.8 points and shot 45.6 percent from the field in 56 games at North Carolina.
  • He led the ABA in assists in his first three years in the league, averaging 6.5 in 1968 and 7.1 in 1969 and 1970.
  • After ending his playing career with Denver in 1972, he became head coach at Davidson College, but quit after only 84 days on the job, before the season even started.
  • In four years as an ABA coach, with Carolina and Denver, his teams went 229-107 during the regular season but only 20-22 in the playoffs.
  • He was voted ABA coach of the Year three times  once with Carolina (1973) and twice with Denver (1975 and 1976).
  • Brown was an assistant coach with the U.S. national team in 1980, a squad that never played in the Olympics because of a U.S. boycott.
  • In head-to-head coaching matchups with his brother Herb (Detroit) in the NBA in the 1970s, Larry (Denver) was 4-2.
  • Herb, who was head coach of the Piston from January 1976 to December 1978, made the playoffs twice.
  • Since 1995, Herb has been an assistant on Larry's staff in Indiana, Philadelphia and on Detroit's 2004 title team.
  • In 1987-88, his last season at Kansas, Brown lost two players to academic ineligibility and two others to knee injuries. The Jayhawks recovered and, led by two-time All-American Danny Manning, went on to the NCAA title, beating Big Eight Conference rival Oklahoma in the final.
  • Brown's record at UCLA and Kansas (a combined seven years) was 177-61. His teams made the NCAA Tournament each season, going 19-6.
  • The NCAA placed Kansas on probation in November 1988 for rules violations that occurred during Brown's tenure.
  • In the five seasons before he arrived in Philadelphia (1992-97), the 76ers never won more than 26 games and were 180 games below .500. In Brown's six seasons with the Sixers, they were 50 games over .500.
  • In the summer of 2000, Brown tried to trade 76ers star Allen Iverson, with whom he had long squabbled. Iverson stayed and later promised he wouldn't miss any more practices. He also asked to be the team's captain, which Brown agreed to. The 76ers won their first 10 games and went on to the NBA Finals.
  • In Brown's 2002 Hall of Fame class were Magic Johnson, Lute Olson, Kay Yow and Drazen Petrovic.
  • The 2004 U.S. Olympic team, which was coached by Brown and finished a disappointing third, was missing many of the NBA's best players, including Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. The team had five days of practice before it started playing exhibition games.
  • Through 2006, Brown had a 1,010-800 coaching record in 23 NBA seasons and a 1,239-907 mark as a pro coach, including four ABA seasons.
  • Brown has been married three times. He has two children with his third wife Shelly, whom he married in 1993. He and his first wife Gayle had two children.