I had a feeling it would go like this when Larry Brown came to Portland. I’m not talking about the Blazers steamrolling a hobbled Charlotte Bobcats either. It’s more about Brown leaving a lasting impression.
Call it “Six Degrees of Larry Brown” if you will.
There was a reason Brown held his pregame availability at 5:00 at the Rose Garden. Whereas most visiting coaches tend to hold a typical intimate press conference closer to 5:45 outside their locker room, Brown opted for the early bird special.
He had places to go; people to see. Actually, now in his 28th year in the NBA, it was more like people coming to see him.
I gotta go talk to Coach Brown….
That phrase was heard plenty around the Rose Garden on Wednesday.
First it was assistant Blazers Monty Williams who grabbed a seat courtside next to Brown. Williams played under Coach Brown at Philadelphia in 2002-03, a time Williams has told me before he will always cherish. It was in Philly where Monty came to appreciate Brown, his work ethic and also where he got to know Brown’s family.
Minutes later – as Williams and Brown parted ways – General Manager Kevin Pritchard sidled up alongside his former head coach. Pritchard won an NCAA title in 1988 thanks to Coach Brown while at Kansas, and his gratitude extends all the way back to those early days in Lawrence when Brown used to ride Pritchard in practice.
See, Brown tends to be hard on his point guards. It’s always been that way. Ask Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson, Allan Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Stephon Marbury, Raymond Felton – and of course, Kevin Pritchard – about that.
“Oh man, was he,” Pritchard said when I asked if that was the case.
“If not, I’d like to meet someone who is harder.”
But looking back, Pritchard also knows it was all for the better.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Brown.”
That’s why it was refreshing – knowing the paternal relationships involved – to hear Brown heap praise on the Blazers after the Bobcats loss. He knows how far they have come and likes where they are going.
Next up is Channing Frye.
While it’s uncertain if Frye had a chance to swap “hellos” with his first coach in the league, there remains a reason in my mind why Frye’s rookie season in New York was his best yet: Coach Brown. He knew how to use “Channin” (as Brown always mispronounces Frye’s first name) and “Channin” fit well into his Brown’s system.
Heck, even Nate McMillan recalled before the game how he took-in one of Coach Brown’s annual summer coaching seminars a few years back and spoke fondly about what he learned from the coaching legend.
As for me, the “Six Degrees” has come full circle with Coach Brown – from one coast to the other.
My first year covering the NBA in New York, the Knicks brought in Larry Brown to help right the ship. And while the Knicks season – and Coach Brown’s tenure in New York – sunk like the Titanic, I will never forget being able to listen and talk the game with Coach Brown during pregame and post game interviews and at practice.
It was amazing.
It was crazy.
It was truly a blessing.
pic via: upi