Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Journeyman coach Brown back in New York as Bobcats face Knicks
NEW YORK -- Larry Brown sat down in a familiar spot in Madison Square Garden's interview room and was quickly asked how he'd solve the Knicks' problems.
Problem is, the Charlotte Bobcats' coach couldn't do that three seasons ago when he was roaming New York's sidelines and had no interest in trying Wednesday night, attempting to wave off the first question he got about Stephon Marbury.
Brown was back on the sidelines in New York for the first time since he was fired by MSG chairman James Dolan 2½ years ago, now coaching the Bobcats and deriving no enjoyment from the Knicks' struggles since he was booted.
"I just didn't do what was expected of me, so I move on," Brown said before the game. "I was the coach here, so I realize what our record was and I can understand what Mr. Dolan was thinking, so you move on. But I don't get any pleasure in anybody struggling."
The 2005-06 season was a chaotic one, even by Knicks standards. Brown feuded with Marbury and publicly criticized other players -- former Knick Trevor Ariza was "delusional" -- used an NBA-record 42 different lineups, and left a late-season game in Cleveland on a stretcher after complaining of an upset stomach.
Former president Isiah Thomas said that Brown would return despite the 23-59 record, but reports soon surfaced that Dolan wanted Brown out. The Knicks, naturally, botched that, taking more than a month before Dolan finally got around to officially ousting him.
"Whatever happened, happened for a reason," Brown said. "I don't think Mr. Dolan didn't give it a lot of thought and have input from a lot of people, and he decided it was best to move in another direction. He expected a lot from me and I guess I didn't give him that and so you've got to respect that. He moved on, and I moved on."
Brown was out of coaching for two years, working for the Philadelphia 76ers, before Michael Jordan hired him in Charlotte, the Hall of Famer's ninth NBA job.
"I'm glad to see him back on the coaching bench. It looks like he's in a good situation over there with MJ and the rest of the guys, a big, big North Carolina family over there," said Quentin Richardson, one of eight Knicks left from Brown's season. "I'm sure he'll probably get a little crazy reception from the crowd, but I wish him nothing but the best. I always had a good relationship with coach."
Dolan refused to pay the remainder of Brown's salary, saying Brown was fired "for cause" because he violated MSG's media policies and attempted to broker trades behind Thomas' back. Commissioner David Stern eventually helped author a settlement for $18.5 million -- less than half of what Brown was owed in the remaining four years of his contract.
Yet Brown professes no bitterness, saying he hopes the Knicks will improve under new coach Mike D'Antoni. Brown even played a role in a potential turnaround by persuading longtime friend Donnie Walsh to take the job as team president when Dolan fired Thomas late last season.
"I was the coach. There were some things I had control over, some things I didn't. But I'm not going to look back and say what I could have done differently. I'm disappointed I didn't get a chance to finish the job that was asked of, but again, I have a great opportunity in Charlotte."