Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No sighing allowed - This week's sports blog

Detroit's long national nightmare is over. The Pistons finally shoved their coach, Larry Brown, off the bus yesterday, ending what had become one of the more needlessly aggravating episodes in recent Detroit sports history. And there is plenty to be found all over the internet about this, from both sides involved.

Check out the various takes on the story, including mine, here.

Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News says both the Pistons and Brown are to blame for this mess, but ultimately, Travelin' Larry's track record speaks pretty clearly:

"It's easy to say you want to return (and after the emotional playoff run, I think he did) when you're fairly certain it won't be allowed. But everyone knows, or should know, what Brown is about. This is what he does, embrace and love a job for a short period, then start wondering whether he's being loved back. The Pistons knew the history -- 10 stops in 33 seasons -- but took an educated gamble."

On his blog, Terry Foster says Brown just had to go:

"From that room comes anger. It boiled during the playoffs. It got hotter after every Brown press conference where he proclaimed he wanted to coach the Pistons the following season.
Players were not buying it and privately hoped their coach walked or was forced out.
This isn't to say a mutiny was on the horizon if Brown returned, but there was a strong possibility.
I've run into players here and there and they privately talked about their anger. Some even wanted to show their displeasure during the playoffs, but were told by President Joe Dumars to keep quiet."

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News gives Brown's side of the story (while also admitting he's a long-time friend of the coach):

"[The Pistons] want this whole thing to be another example of Brown, who has moved all over the place in basketball, wanting to make another move, this time to the Knicks.

They have cleverly used his resume against him, even though the most recent part of his resume - the way the Pistons have played ball the last two seasons - sure works against Davidson and Dumars as they try to fire Brown and make it his fault."

Marc Stein of reminds us all of perhaps the worst-kept secret in professional basketball (other than Flip Saunders becoming the Pistons' next coach):

"Larry Brown will be the next coach of the Knicks.

The only unknown is exactly when that will happen.

Now that he's free contractually to pursue other jobs, Larry has the ability to sign with New York in time to start the 2005-06 season. He also has the option of taking some extra time to get healthy or even sit out a full season if he chooses..."

And I like this take from Richard Justice's blog:

"Brown wanted out, but refused to quit. He said he wanted to coach, but refused to commit to coaching.

He whined that the Pistons forced him back from surgery last season, which was silly. He gave the media more updates on his future than he gave Pistons GM Joe Dumars.

He negotiated with one team (Cleveland) while coaching another (Detroit) in the playoffs. Had one of his players done that, had Ben Wallace opened talks with, say, the Lakers, Brown would have rightfully been furious."

The comments I left on Foster's blog and Out of Bounds sum up my thoughts on the situation. Regardless of what he says, I think Brown's behavior showed he wanted to go. And the Pistons had to let him go, rather than risk a player mutiny. For a team that could still win another NBA title, that was too big a chance to take. And those who think the Pistons are suddenly going to become terrible with Flip Saunders as their coach are delusional.

The current roster knows what they have to do to win, and almost did it this year in spite of Brown. All Saunders has to do is not screw things up, and he's more than capable of that. When Saunders had his most talented team in 2003-04, Minnesota finished with the best record in the NBA and made it to the Western Conference Finals. Some will point to the fact that Saunders hasn't won a NBA title. You know how many championships Brown won before coming to Detroit? Zero. When he had his best team, he won.

Maybe I'm underestimating how important Larry Brown was to the Pistons, but there are many other good - and maybe great - coaches out there. Brown didn't invent the game of basketball. He's not God's gift to coaching. Well... okay, if he can win with that New York Knicks roster, maybe he is.