Will Brown's Ouster Lead to Brownout for Pistons?Larry Brown, who led the Detroit Pistons to two Eastern Conference titles and one NBA championship, has been relieved of his coaching duties in a $6 million buyout. Presumably his next stop is the New York Knicks. Longtime Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders is expected to be Brown's replacement in Detroit. It is often said that the NBA is a "players' game" and the NCAA is a "coaches' game." In reality, you cannot win at any level without having talented players, but the idea that at the NBA level coaching is superfluous is highly questionable. It seems that Detroit will basically have the same roster that made back to back NBA Finals appearances, so it will be interesting to see how well the team does next year with Saunders at the helm. Saunders is highly regarded as an "X's and O's" coach despite his conspicuous lack of postseason success in Minnesota; the only time he led the Timberwolves past the first round was 2003-04, but Minnesota followed up that season's Conference Finals appearance with such a debacle of a 2004-05 season that Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale fired Saunders and took over the coaching duties himself. It will be particularly intriguing to observe the Rasheed Wallace-Flip Saunders relationship; Sheed calls Brown "pound for pound," as in the best coach in the NBA pound for pound, and Brown returns the affection, saying that Sheed is one of the most underrated players in the league. I wonder if Sheed and Flip will be exchanging such pleasantries six months from now.
The other side of this transaction bears watching as well. If Brown does in fact land the Knicks coaching job he will be taking over a team that has been stuck in neutral (or worse) for several years--but that will not faze a reclamation artist like Brown, who led two of the league's most wayward franchises--the pre-Jason Kidd Nets and the "we have a seat permanently reserved at the draft lottery" Clippers--to playoff appearances during his coaching career. Knicks' point guard Stephon Marbury has proven to be a franchise player on numerous occasions--every team he leaves (Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix)--becomes a more successful franchise than it was while he was there. If Brown turns the Knicks into a playoff team with a shoot first, ask no questions later, play no defense backcourt of Marbury and Jamal Crawford he should get his own wing at the Hall of Fame. I would not bet against Brown pushing, pulling and dragging the Knicks into the postseason.
posted by David Friedman @ 12:59 PM