A Daily Babble Production
Larry Brown coaching the Charlotte Bobcats is an idea that excites me.
Not the way that a possible close-out Game 6 for the Celtics in Atlanta tonight excites me, of course, but as a fan of the Association, this is a move that certainly piques my curiosity.
Coach. Team. Executive. All three in this situation have the ability to hold much of our interest, and the combination of the three factors will make the situation in Charlotte more than worth monitoring no matter how good this team is next season. Let's break it down.
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Love him or hate him, there will always be something compelling about Larry Brown. Between his brilliant basketball mind, his odd psychological tactics and the fact that his nomadic nature and disloyalty have come to define his legacy almost as much as his coaching ability has, the man will always hold our attention. To Brown's credit, he is one of the rare pro coaches who is truly able to teach the game with consistency, and his ability to instill fundamental basketball values in players all over remains one of the best of the past few decades.
But he failed the last time around, and that's why we just knew he had to come back at least one more time. Though Brown's coaching legacy is still by and large an enormously successful one, and though many (myself included) have said that he stepped into an impossible situation in New York, the fact remains that his tenure with the 23-win 2005-06 Knicks is still a big spot on his record. While his players and general manager were far from ideal, Brown is still abhorred by Knicks fans for allegedly quitting on the season and widely considered at least partially at fault for taking a $60 million contract with a roster he knew he didn't like and then continuing to complain rather than coach once the moves he requested were made.
We made excuses for him, talking about how uncoachable those Knicks were and how Brown was best off as a finisher for a veteran team, and that was all well and good at the time. But the man couldn't go out like that. He needed to come back and be successful one more time, and the man who is a true teacher has once more come back to take on the task of educating one of the rawest teams in the league rather than inheriting a team that had won 50 games in back-to-back seasons as he did in Detroit. He'll have the chance in Charlotte to put the Sizable Apple fiasco behind him as an aberration once and for all, and it will be curious to see whether Brown will be up to the task with a team that has never won more than 33 games in franchise history.
Which brings us to the team Brown will be inheriting. Sadly for Coach Brown, the 'uncoachable group of jerks' excuse officially goes off the market this time around. Fortunately for him, that's because this group is both talented and fairly high on character. The former point guard should jump at the chance to mentor Ray Felton, with whom he shares an alma mater in North Carolina. Brown could be just the man to get the former Heel to maximize his efficiency offensively and to start locking down on defense as well. Gerald Wallace began to break out after signing a multi-year extension last summer, and if he can stay healthy, his athleticism will be put to great use in Brown's defense. As solid as Emeka Okafor's numbers have been thus far into his career, he still has plenty of room to improve, but he is as cerebral a player as there is in the game. Nazr Mohammed and Jason Richardson are consistent veteran leaders who are no strangers to putting in full effort. Though the 'Cats will still need to bring in some other significant good pieces to add depth (and competency in general), Brown will have the chance to take a still-talented, still-young core to places Sam Vincent could not. H's certainly the type of man who can do that. Among other changes, expect the Bobcats' 23rd-ranked defensive efficiency to improve significantly in the year to come.
Finally, there is that matter of the executive who hired Brown: His Airness himself. Michael Jordan has, of course, been tremendously unsuccessful thus far in his front office career, having flopped miserably in Washington (where even his own comeback as a player was far from enough) and not yielded any results worth writing home about yet in Charlotte. What makes matters particularly intriguing here is that Coach Brown doesn't fit into the mold of classic MJ underling. Unlike Jordan's last two coaching hires -- Doug Collins in Washington and Vincent last year -- Brown doesn't come to the table to be anyone's figurehead or puppet. He isn't here simply because he's an old friend of Jordan's or someone MJ knows he can control (check out Michael Leahy's masterpiece When Nothing Else Matters for extended details on the Washington end of things here).
If and when there are conflicts of philosophy, Brown isn't going to be backing down to Jordan or sitting scared of suddenly being out of a job. So what does the head honcho do when his coach mouths back at him? Will he be able to bite his tongue and let his coach do his job? And how long will it take for Brown to sandbag the front office by complaining about his roster if the season doesn't get off to a good straight start? The list of questions goes on, and we'll be likely to see a myriad of interesting answers throughout the year.
Young team with lots of talent but still raw. Great coach with occasional combustibility. Great player turned marginal executive turning the reins over for the first time to a coach who won't back down from him. Should make quite the mix this season in Charlotte.
Color me in the camp of folks who don't have a clue as to how it will all play out. Which makes it all the more fun.