Posts Tagged ‘Larry Brown’

Najera Busts Barriers From Bench Now

FRISCO, Texas – During the first round of the 2010 playoffs, in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks — the team and the city he always called home no matter where roamed in the NBA — Eduardo Najera decided to shake things up.

The Spurs were doing a number on the Mavs in Dallas and the muscular, 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward had seen enough of the slap-and-hack defense on Dirk Nowitzki. So when Manu Ginobili drove the lane, Najera collared him and Ginobili crashed to the floor. The foul deserved to be and was called a flagrant 2, garnering an automatic ejection. But Najera had grabbed everyone’s attention.

“It was kind of frustrating to watch some of them hit Dirk in the face,” Najera would say. “So I just came in and tried to prove a point that we’re going to fight back. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

As a player, Najera, still the only Mexican-born player ever drafted in the NBA, never had to search for an identity. He simply was physical, intense, hard-nosed and unrelenting. Don’t mistake the Ginobili foul; Najera wasn’t a dirty player, but he wasn’t afraid to take the fight to the opponent.

These days those attributes don’t translate so well wearing a suit. As a rookie coach of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends, developing an identity, a sideline demeanor, just doesn’t come as naturally.

“I am pretty intense,” Najera said. “I really believe that my identity as a player has carried on to this level as a coach. Yes, I call it the way I see it. I don’t treat players differently, they are all the same to me and I go off on one through 15, and that includes my assistant coaches.” (more…)

Carlisle Seeks Win No. 500 Tonight At OKC

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle probably never imagined it would take 47 games this season for his team to get 20 wins.

So, naturally, it’s taken a little longer for him to join the exclusive 500-win club. It’s been that type of a hard-coaching season for Carlisle, who will become just the fifth active coach to reach 500 career wins with the Mavs’ next victory. It could happen tonight, although it won’t be easy as Dallas is in Oklahoma City (8 p.m. ET, League Pass) to take on a Thunder team in a bit of a lull after finishing up seven of eight games on the road.

Carlisle has amassed a 499-352 (.586) record in 11 seasons with Detroit, Indiana and Dallas, where he has won 218 games in now his fifth season, the longest tenure of his career. The only active coaches with 500 wins are Gregg Popovich (1,295), George Karl (1,104), Rick Adelman (989) and Doc Rivers (570). Carlisle is one of just four active coaches, along with Popovich, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Rivers, to win a championship.

Carlisle will become the 28th coach in NBA history to achieve 500 wins. Only seven coaches have reached 1,000. One is Larry Brown (No. 6 all-time with 1,098 wins), the man who replaced Carlisle a decade ago in Detroit after he led the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals in just his second season. Brown and the Pistons won the title the next season. Brown now coaches just up the road at SMU.

“I think it’s the only team I ever took over with a winning record and I said immediately when I got the job that the values that he has are no different than the values that I have,” Brown said. “It was an easy transition for me because they were taught the right way. He knows that, we talk about it all the time. I inherited a team that was fundamentally sound, that knew how to play, they cared about their teammates, they guarded every single night, played hard every single night. I coined the phrase, ‘Played the right way,’ and he started that.”

Carlisle emerged as one of the game’s truly gifted coaches with his deft handling of a veteran Mavs team that rolled up the Trail Blazers, Lakers, Thunder and finally the Heat in winning the 2010-11 championship, the franchise’s first.

And who knows how much more quickly Carlisle might have reached 500 if late Pistons owner Bill Davidson had not jumped at the chance to hire the legendary Brown; and then later at Indiana if the “Malice in the Palace” brawl in Detroit had not thrown the franchise into chaos. Still, Carlisle managed to guide that injury- and suspension-riddled 2004-05 Pacers team to the playoffs and a first-round upset of Boston.

He spent one more season at Indiana before taking a year off working as an analyst at ESPN. Then, Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban brought him to Dallas to coach Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

So far this season Dallas is 0-2 against the Thunder. Yet, who would have figured both games would go to overtime?

Perhaps Carlisle has something special up his sleeve to nail down No. 500.

On Rare Night, Brown, Manning Reunite

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – On Sunday evening in Dallas, one of the rarest coaching matchups ever in college basketball will take place between Larry Brown and Danny Manning, two men whose relationship traces back decades and generations, and intersects as coach-and-player in the college ranks and in the NBA.

Now as colleagues, Manning, a rookie head coach, brings his Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-6) to Moody Coliseum to face the legendary Brown in his first season leading the long-irrelevant SMU Mustangs (10-5) in both teams’ Conference USA opener.

“First of all, I dread this game,” Brown said Friday during a teleconference to preview the matchup. “Danny’s been such a big part of my life. Aside from watching him coach and knowing he’s a head coach, and we all take pride in that and know our game is better for that, it’s going to be a special moment for me seeing him on the other bench, seeing him coaching. But I don’t enjoy that opportunity because if we lose, I don’t take loses very well, and if we win, I’m not going to be happy about him being on the losing side.”

The two did very little losing at Kansas nearly a quarter-century ago.

In 1988, Manning, the Jayhawks’ star senior, and Brown, their respected, bespectacled coach, won the national championship. In today’s era, Manning might not have been around to win Most Outstanding Player honors. Instead he’d probably have been grinding through his third or maybe even fourth season in the NBA.

Sunday’s otherwise under-the-radar Tulsa-SMU matchup marks just the second time ever that the coach and MOP of an NCAA title team will face each other as head coaches, according to the hard-digging SMU media relations department. The only other time? Back in 1950 when Howie Dallmar, the 1942 MOP for Stanford, and coach Everett Dean matched wits with Dean still at Stanford and Dallmar at Penn. The pupil won that one 59-58.

In ’88, Manning’s father Ed, whom Brown coached briefly with the ABA Carolina Cougars, was on Brown’s staff. After the Jayhawks won the title, Danny Manning would become the No. 1 draft pick of the Los Angeles Clippers and Brown would take Ed, who died of a heart condition at age 68 in May 2011, with him to his first NBA stop with the San Antonio Spurs.

Five years later, Brown would reunite with Danny Manning as coach of the Clippers.

But what might have been if back then players routinely lasted one year in college as they do today or, before the one-and-done rule, played no college ball at all? Some top players in Manning’s day and before obviously left school after two or three seasons, but it wasn’t the norm. Manning had his chance to go.

“My story at Kansas, there was talk my junior year that potentially there could be some interest for me to look into the NBA,” Manning said Friday on the teleconference. “This is a true story, this is how it went down. My dad comes over to my apartment, he steps one foot in the door and he says, ‘You’re not ready,’ and it was end of discussion. He followed that up by, I think it was a Saturday or Sunday when the season was over, by, ‘Hey, you coming by the house to eat? Mom cooked today.’ And that was the end of my NBA thought-process, so to speak.”

As a junior, Manning averaged 23.9 points and 9.5 rebounds. He shot a remarkable 61.7 percent. As Brown remembers it, Manning would have been the No. 1 pick that season.  That pick belonged to the Spurs, who drafted a 7-footer out of the Naval Academy named David Robinson, a player they’d have to wait on to fulfill his service commitment.

“He’s not telling you the whole story on this whole going pro thing,” Brown said. “His dad and mom came in and saw me. I didn’t know what advice to give them. I thought he was going to be the first pick in the draft. I told his dad that. And based on my background with coach [Dean] Smith, if you were a lottery pick he didn’t let you come back to school. But I spoke to Danny and Ed, and Danny told me he promised his mom and his dad that he would graduate and I basically said, ‘Well, you can go in the pros and come back and graduate.’

“And then Danny kind of said, ‘Well, I really would some day like to be the first pick in the draft.’ And I thought, well, based on my knowledge and how good he was, I thought he’d be the first pick in the draft unless other general managers were crazy. And then the third thing he told me was, ‘I want to win a national championship.’ And I said, ‘Well, the other two we can handle, but you’d have to stay another year to do that.’ That’s at least the way I looked at the story. And lo-and-behold, he graduated, he was the first pick in the draft and we won a national championship.

“So, it was a great story. Maybe I made it up.”

Had Manning left, Brown probably wouldn’t own the distinction as the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, which he got with the 2004 Detroit Pistons during his seventh of nine stops over 26 NBA seasons. But Manning stayed, and no coach has yet to match Brown with double crowns.

Manning went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA and averaged double figures in scoring in 10 of them. He’s seen plenty of short-timers come and go in the college game since his NBA retirement. He was an assistant at Kansas for nine seasons before moving up to Tulsa where he follows in the coaching tradition of Tubby Smith, Nolan Richardson and current Kansas coach Bill Self.

As seasoned as any pro in any draft after four years at Kansas, Manning said one reason he lasted so long in the NBA is because of the stream of young talent drafted into the NBA on potential, players that didn’t possess the maturity to stick.

“That’s the era that we’re in now and it’s based upon potential,” Manning said. “I’ve said this and lots of other people have said this many, many times before, all professional leagues, the backbone of those professional leagues are your solid veteran players and there are a lot of young men that come out early and aren’t quite ready for the rigors of professional athletics, but are there because of their potential.

“And I said I was fortunate and blessed enough to play 15 years. But part of the reason I was able to play that long is because the young men that were coming in weren’t ready. They weren’t ready to make a contribution to the team or accept the role that an older veteran will accept, knowing how special and unique it is to be a professional athlete.”

Pistons Working To Save Their Season, Refill Once-Packed Palace

DALLAS – The Detroit Pistons have crashed as hard as the Michigan economy over the last few years and the combination has resulted in a lot of eerily quiet nights inside The Palace at Auburn Hills.

“It is strange for sure,” Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said before the Pistons dropped a 10th road game in 11 tries Saturday against the Mavericks. “The fact that my first five years in the league, seeing that place sold out every game; every time we went into Detroit it was sold out. It just shows how hard the economy hit, but I think it will bounce back. It’s just a matter of time.”

For now, there are more empty seats than filled ones at Pistons games. But to pin Detroit’s turnstile problem mostly on a rotten economy is to discredit die-hard Pistons fans that have grown weary of throwing good money at bad basketball.

Entering tonight’s eighth home game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit’s average attendance is 12,392 and ranks last in the league — behind Sacramento, New Orleans and last season’s worst team, Charlotte. Take away the home-opener crowd of 16,646 and the average dips to 11,683. On most nights the actual attendance is much less.

FROM FIRST TO WORST
The Pistons rank last in the league in attendance this season. A look at the club’s average attendance over the last 13 seasons
Season Avg. Attendance Rank
2012-13 12,392 30th
2011-12 14,413 28th
2010-11 16,660 18th
2009-10 18,751 8th
2008-09 21,877 1st
2007-08 22,076 1st
2006-07 22,076 2nd
2005-06 22,076 1st
2004-05 22,076 1st
2003-04 22,076 1st
2002-03 20,470 1st
2001-02 18,556 11th
2000-01 14,812 22nd

“It’s not weird because it’s not a situation where it’s been drastic, where this season it was packed and the very next season it was nothing,” said Tayshaun Prince, a career Piston and last remaining member of the 2004 title team. “It didn’t just hit rock bottom at one point. When things are going so well for a long period of time and then all of a sudden when things hit, then they started to veer down, veer down, veer down.”

From 2002 through 2009, not coincidentally the last time Detroit made the playoffs, the Pistons ranked No. 1 in attendance in six of those seven seasons, routinely boasting sellout crowds of 20,000-plus. The one season they weren’t No. 1, they were No. 2. The run included the ’04 championship and a repeat Finals appearance under Larry Brown, and four other East finals appearances, one prior to Brown under Rick Carlisle, and three more after Brown under Flip Saunders.

Since Saunders won 59 games in 2007-08, but lost in the East finals for a third consecutive time, Detroit has rolled through coaches Michael Curry (39-43) and John Kuester (57-107), with Lawrence Frank now in his second season and trying to rescue a 5-13 start that opened with eight consecutive losses.

Detroit hasn’t won more than 39 games in any of the last four seasons and average attendance has steadily declined from the top spot in ’08-’09 to eighth to 18th to 28th and now to rock bottom.

“It’s not on the fans to come out. It’s on us to put together a product every night that fans can be proud of,” Frank said. “Detroit has always shown great support, not just for basketball, for all their sports teams when they’re competing at the highest level. You’re used to seeing a lot of fans out there, but we’re appreciative for the fans that do go. Obviously, we understand the economic crisis and what hit, and Detroit obviously was hit harder than most. But from the beginning, it’s going to be on us to put together something that the fans can be proud of and want to support.”

To Frank’s point, and further proof that tough economic times alone doesn’t kill attendance, the Detroit Tigers have averaged more than 30,000 fans in each of the last six seasons. Even the Lions, amid another last-place season, are averaging more than 63,000 through six home games, better than 98 percent capacity. Both clubs play in relatively new downtown venues and some debate if the Pistons would be better served leaving their suburban digs some 30 miles north of the city.

But that ignores the club’s attendance track record over much of the last decade and before that when the Pistons shared the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions.

So how close are the Pistons to rising up again?

“I think it’s real close,” impressive third-year center and leading scorer Greg Monroe said. “We have to find a way to come out every night and just play hard and outwork teams. I think we’re very close to doing that, but it’s going to take games to get the actual body of work to say we are doing it consistently.”

It’s hopeless to still lament the Darko Milicic draft and the free-agent millions thrown at Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Monroe is surrounded by a roster that might not contend for a title, but is at least intriguing for its youth. Second-year guard Brandon Knight and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond join Monroe as possible long-term core pieces. Veterans Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Prince and, yes, Villanueva, should help to at least make a push toward playoff contention in a mediocre Eastern Conference.

No progress was made on that front during the recent two-game road swing through Memphis and Dallas with two more double-digit losses (nine in 11 road games). It was a disappointing development coming after the season’s first flirtation with momentum, a modest two-game home win streak that gave Detroit four wins in six games.

They put on an offensive show for the few souls that came out, beating Portland, 108-101, and then drilled Phoenix 117-77. That beat down drew an announced crowd of 10,517, about 300 more than the previous night.

Even the league’s top draws haven’t delivered bigger crowds. The Celtics drew 12,214 and 12,784 came to see three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s been tough,” Maxiell admitted. “The last couple years the crowd’s been trimming down. We’re trying to bring the crowds back with some big entertainment. The guys that were here a couple years ago know how it was when we were winning, and we’re trying to bring them back.”

Sheed Is Back … For A Tryout





GREENBURGH, NY – After two seasons away from the NBA, Rasheed Wallace is back.

The Knicks announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed Wallace to a contract. Wallace was in the gym Wednesday and got some shots up, but he did not participate in practice.

That will happen soon, but we don’t know how long Wallace will last. Knicks coach Mike Woodson made it very clear that Wallace is trying out for the team over the next few weeks and not guaranteed a spot on the roster when the Knicks open the season in Brooklyn on Nov. 1.

“Only time will tell,” Woodson said. “This is not something that’s definite. It’s an opportunity to look at him and see what he has left. And if he has something left, I think it can be a positive for our ball club.”

The opportunity is definitely there, though. Wallace is the 20th player in camp, but only 13 of the other 19 Knicks have guaranteed contracts. Come Oct. 30, the Knicks can carry as many as 15.

Sheed made it clear that he’s all in. The idea of a comeback was initially Woodson’s idea and was presented on a phone call early in the summer. But as the season drew nearer, Wallace knew that he had to make a commitment.

“I gave it an honest try, I’d say, probably about late August,” Wallace said. “And I said to myself, ‘Well, if I do do this, then I can’t go in half-stepping or slouching. I have to go ahead and give it 100 percent. I have to give it an honest try. I have to be true to myself.’”

So here he is.

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A Bad Time To Stop The Linsanity





HOUSTON – In the end Jeremy Lin got his billion dollar contract.

After all, isn’t that what coach Mike Woodson said it would take to pry the point guard phenom — and next season’s starter — out of the Knicks’ cold, dead hands?

So Linsanity now wears boots and a Stetson, y’all.

For the Rockets, it’s the continuation of a summertime gamble that looks a lot like walking across a high wire while juggling chain saws.

After re-signing a player he had and cut seven months ago for a whopping $25.1 million, Houston general manager Daryl Morey evidently plans to turn right around and close a quite similar deal with Bulls backup center Omer Asik.

At the same time the Rockets remain doggedly in the middle of the Dwight Howard soap opera, willing to take the unhappy big man off the hands of the Magic, even for a short-term rental, or play a third-party role that could land Howard on the Lakers and Andrew Bynum in Houston. In return Morey is willing to give up a large portion of his current roster and take on a bevy of bad contracts from Orlando.

If you’re the Rockets who’ve been trapped in the netherworld middle of the NBA standings for three straight seasons with no star to build around, it is a half-mad gambler’s plan that makes perfect sense, assuming you’ve got the nerve and access to team owner Leslie Alexander’s wallet.

However, if you’re the Knicks, just drop the ‘L’ and label it insanity. Not that Lin was ever going to chase the ghost of Walt Frazier out of Madison Square Garden, but because they chose a curious time to become, as the old saying goes, pennywise and pound-foolish.

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Who Is Your Coach Of The Year?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t take our word for it — one of the greatest coaches of all time thinks Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ranks among the best of the best.

Larry Brown (above) speaks glowingly about the job Popovich has done throughout his career. And much like NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, we think this season has been one of Pop’s best ever (not that he cares what we or anyone else in the media thinks). Good enough to edge reigning Coach of The Year Tom Thibodeau for the honor this season.

There were a number of strong candidates in addition to Popovich and Thibodeau. Frank Vogel guided the Pacers to a top three seed in the Eastern Conference. Doc Rivers revived the Celtics from an early season funk and finished with the Atlantic Division title. Scott Brooks has led Oklahoma City to the top of the Western Conference heap, a hair behind Pop’s Spurs. And you know we couldn’t forget our guy Lionel Hollins and the job he did with the Hang Time Grizzlies this season.

And those are just the guys who made the final cut.

If you had to choose, who gets the hardware?:


Adelman In Minnesota?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Admit it: the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching search has gone on for so long you forgot they still haven’t replaced Kurt Rambis.

Any and every available coaching candidate worth his whistle has been in and out of the Twin Cities to speak with general manager David Kahn and the organization’s brass about the open spot. And you can finally add ex-Rockets coach Rick Adelman to that list, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

The Wolves brass worked for weeks to get Adelman to come in for more than a phone interview.  If he wants the job, and they can agree on a salary, the job is probably his.

The salary would probably have to be around $5 million per year.

Adelman joins Don Nelson and Sam Mitchell, likely, as the team’s top candidates.  The 65-year-old Adelman has taken time off during his career, and the thought is he might want to take another year off to spend time with his family.

Adelman’s career record is 945-616 in 20 seasons with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento and Houston. He favors an up-tempo style, which is said to be what the Wolves seek.

The list of candidates linked to the job is extensive.

In addition to Adelman, Nelson and Mitchell, names like Larry Brown, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson and Bernie Bickerstaff were all mentioned as possible replacements for Rambis. Of this group, only Woodson has landed elsewhere. He has already signed a contract to join Mike D’Antoni‘s staff in New York.

If Adelman is the choice, the Timberwolves have every right to be excited. He would improve the situation in Minnesota the minute he walks through the door.

Larry Brown To The Timberwolves?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This one sounds too good to be true.

As if the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t done everything in David Kahn‘s powers to make themselves the most interesting non-playoff team in the league this summer, now comes word that their seemingly never-ending coaching search has taken yet another sharp turn toward yet another Hall of Famer.

Larry Brown is the man in Kahn’s crosshairs these days, per a report from Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

After interviewing Rick Adelman and Don Nelson over the weekend, the Timberwolves intend to interview Larry Brown and possibly one or two others in this first phase to replace fired coach Kurt Rambis.

When the Wolves will interview Brown, who has coached teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, is uncertain because of a recent death in his family, according to a league source with knowledge of the team’s search.

If they do, they will have interviewed two coaches among the top six all time in NBA career victories. Nelson is No. 1 with 1,335. Brown is No. 6 with 1,098.

The Wolves so far have interviewed Bernie Bickerstaff, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson, Adelman and Nelson. Add Brown to that list and four of those candidates are age 65 or older, a sign team President David Kahn is looking for experience and track record for such a young team.

Brown, 70, has coached nine NBA teams and was fired by Charlotte 28 games into last season. He would appear to be a long shot for the job, because he’s not the kind of coach with fast-break basketball in his bones and is known for being impatient with young players. He also often wants to trade much of the roster after taking a new job.

But there is a connection here: He and Kahn have known each other since the late 1970s, when Brown coached UCLA and Kahn was a student-newspaper reporter there, and Kahn considers Brown one of his mentors.

We’d be lying if we said we’re anything other than completely intrigued by the idea of Brown and Kahn rekindling their working relationship, albeit with a much different dynamic now with Kahn as the boss.

As infuriating as it can be watching the Timberwolves operate sometimes, we have to admit that Kahn keeps things extremely interesting.

Now if he can just make a decision on his next coach a little faster than he did in firing his Rambis …

Rating The Coaching Picks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Spend 20 minutes talking basketball with Lawrence Frank and I promise you, it’s impossible not to be both impressed with his knowledge of the game and won over by his straight-shooter personality.

Spend the same amount of time with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson and I guarantee you’d come away feeling the same way. When the Detroit Pistons’ coaching search came down to Frank and Woodson as their final two candidates, there was no way they could lose, right?

Try telling that to Pistons fans (I’m Michigan born and bred, so I’ve got more than a few Pistons diehards dangling from the family tree), who from what we could gather didn’t seem particularly enthused about any of the options they were presented.

Still, for a franchise in need of a strong personality in that head coach’s chair, after several years of misses, Frank offers offer the qualities needed to deal with a young roster that needs shaping.

His selection over Woodson, an offer is coming soon as first reported by Yahoo! Sports, signals more than just an apparent shift in philosophy — the Pistons’ last three coaches have all had some connection to the organization, either player or assistant coach, prior to taking over the top bench job. It’s also a sign of the influence the new ownership group is placing in the hands of Dave Checketts, hired as a consultant by new owner Tom Gores to advise and assist alongside Pistons president Joe Dumars.

Franchises wish the process was as simple the brain trust coming together and choosing between two worthy candidates that also happen to be ideal fits.

But we all know that the only thing tougher than lucking into a transcendent talent at the top of a draft is finding the right coach for the right team at just the right time.

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