John Feinstein: Larry Brown Heads Home

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Larry Brown is named coach of the NBA's New York Knicks — one week after being fired by the Detroit Pistons. That's a team he took to the NBA Finals two years in a row. The Knicks will be the 11th team Brown has coached in a 33-year career.


Larry Brown was named coach of the NBA's New York Knicks yesterday, one week after being fired by the Detroit Pistons. That's the team he took to the NBA finals two years in a row. The Knicks will be the 11th team Brown has coached in a 33-year career. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now.

Good morning, John.


Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How about starting with the job that Larry Brown just left? What happened in Detroit.

FEINSTEIN: Well, he won an NBA championship two years ago, and then, as you said, made it back to within one game of defending the title this year. But while he was doing that, he engaged in a flirtation with the Cleveland Cavaliers over the possibility of becoming the president of their team, and there was talk about this Knicks job, since Larry grew up on Long Island and has often said it would be his dream to come back and coach the Knicks. And Larry's had about 15 or 20 dream jobs during his career. And Joe Dumars, the general manager of the Pistons, finally decided that there was too much focus on the Larry soap opera, and decided not to bring him back in spite of the fact that he clearly did a great coaching job there.

MONTAGNE: Is it strange though, John, that a man who's is the Hall of Fame as a coach would have worked too many places? You just said 15 or 20 dream jobs. It's the 11th team he's coached.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah. Yeah, it is, and it really gets back to Larry's personality. He's constantly looking for perfection, not just the great job, but he wants everything perfect, which is part of the reason why he's such a great coach, 'cause he's always trying to make every situation he's in better. When he was at the University of Kansas back in 1988, he won the national championship, he was offered the UCLA job, which back then was his dream job, and he ended up leaving Kansas, turning UCLA down and going to San Antonio. So it's just a matter of Larry constantly looking on the other side of the fence and seeing greener grass.

MONTAGNE: And here's a man, though, who sounds like me might find a problem finding happiness as a coach.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think, again, part of that is why he's so good, because he sees a great player and thinks he can be greater than that. He also--one week he will think that a player is wonderful and perfect and exactly right for his team, and the next week he'll think, `I can never coach this guy again.' And both emotions are completely sincere. He's just very intense. He can be difficult to play for. Those who have played for him will tell you that they love the fact that he makes them better. They often hate the way he does it. But yeah, you're right; it's just very difficult being Larry Brown because of this constant search for a happiness that he hasn't seemed to be able to find. That's why he's averaged leaving a job every three years, as brilliant a coach as he is.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's look ahead at the team he takes over, the Knicks.

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is a team that's been in disarray for a while. They haven't won a playoff series since the year 2000. Last year their record was 33-and-49. They have a great deal of difficulty in maneuvering their personnel because of the salary cap in the NBA. And yet, a lot of people in New York think that just because Larry Brown is coaching them, they will make the playoffs next year, that he will take an oft-troubled player, like their point guard Stephon Marbury, and even though they will do battle, Stephon Marbury will come out on the other side as a better player. So I think you'll see the Knicks be more competitive right away, just because of Larry's presence. The question is, when they get to the level in two years, three years where they can win a championship, will Larry Brown be there, or will he be off to his next job?

MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: John Feinstein's most recent basketball book is "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery."

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