BROWN DENIES KNICKS RUMORS

Why is Larry Brown telling the New York Post that coaching the Knicks would be a “dream” job? Doesn’t Larry have a job, coaching the Pistons? Isn’t he taking them to the White House today for recognition as NBA champions? When President Bush shakes his hand, is he going to whisper, “Thanks. But my dream is to coach in New York.”?

Those thoughts raced through my mind – and I’m sure the minds of others – when I picked up the Post this weekend and saw a story, complete with quotes from Brown, under a headline “Larry in a N.Y. State of Mind.” Sorry, I told myself, but the only states Larry Brown should be concerned with are 1) Michigan, the state in which he works, and 2) confusion, the state in which his team seems to operate. One day the Pistons play like champs, the next day they’re losing to Chicago.

Of course, you might forgive their schizophrenia if their coach was working both sides of the street. Since when do you talk about another job when you are in the middle of a season? A player does that, he never hears the end of it.

Bill Davidson and Joe Dumars, I figured, had every right to be furious. They gave Brown a five-year, $25-million contract. They weren’t paying him to tell a reporter how much he “loves” Isiah Thomas, who is a sore subject for Davidson and a business rival to Dumars. You want to show “love” to someone, show it to the people who stepped up and hired you, not the ones who might. Right?

Brown: Knicks were an old dream

So I called Brown, and it took awhile to reach him Sunday. When I finally did, he denied any of the suggestions the Post writer made.

“I told the guy I’m gonna coach in Detroit and this is gonna be my last coaching job… My statement to him was I’m not coaching anywhere else, this is my last coaching job. My goal is to finish here and hang with my family.”

Wow. Talk about missing the story. If Brown was that emphatic, that reporter should be fired today. So should the headline writer, who added the subhead: “Brown: Knicks My Dream Job.”

Instead, the story was written, similar things were hinted at in the other New York papers, Detroit columnists like me were up in arms, and one can only imagine how the most important people in this equation – the Pistons players – felt about all of it.

After all, wasn’t it a blink ago that Brown was choking back tears over the effort these Pistons gave in winning him his first NBA ring? Don’t they have the right to expect a similar effort from their coach in his second season, before he eyes a new horizon?

And here he was, being portrayed as “A New York State Of Mind.”

Not good.

“I told him what I’m telling you,” Brown said. “Did I say it was my dream job, yes, I told him it once was. But they passed me over twice. I grew up in New York. I talked to the guy about that. I talked to him about Red Holzman. …

“I’ve never been smart enough to say ‘no comment.’ “

He should have seen this coming

Well, if this won’t make you smart enough, nothing will. I will take Larry at his word and believe he is being honest when told me this:

“Even if they offer me the job at the end of this season, I am not going to go coach the Knicks.”

Write it down. Send it to New York. See if it gets printed.

But meanwhile, I can’t exonerate Brown totally from this situation. Being misquoted is one thing. But being quoted in the first place was the problem here. Give me one good reason that Larry Brown needs to do any interview with any New York newspaper right now, when he knows the job is in play – and he knows they’ll ask about it.

Larry Brown has coached seven NBA teams. He’s not green. The minute Lenny Wilkens resigned as Knicks coach, Brown should have adopted a one sentence response to the inevitable phone calls: “I am the coach of the Detroit Pistons.”

Instead, he was misrepresented. He was surprised by the article. But acting surprised that a New York tabloid would spin your comments is a little like dropping a match on the floor and being amazed when the curtains catch fire.

I remember a long talk with Brown last year in which he suggested that some of the teams he left didn’t get him the talent he needed or didn’t appreciate him until he was gone. Perhaps that was true in some cases.

It isn’t true here. Dumars got him the talent. And everyone appreciates him. But no one appreciates when you have a good thing going and you sometimes seem intent on rocking the boat. We’ve heard rumblings of discontent about Brown from the players this year – Ben Wallace made headlines with these recently – and nobody in the organization needed to see the Post story right now.

Brown insists he’ll “know better for next time,” and that’s good, if a 64 year-old dog can learn new tricks.

But read it one more time: “I’m gonna coach in Detroit and this is gonna be my last coaching job.”

It’s in ink.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com.

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