SportsProf

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's The Journey: The Larry Brown Story

Click here to see what I mean.

And a few quotes come to mind.

First, from career lefty journeyman fourth/fifth starter Dave LaPoint, who played for 9 teams in 11 Major League seasons. Upon reflecting upon his travels at the end of his career, LaPoint said something like, "My goal is to be a teammate of everyone in the Major Leagues." Whereupon a sabremetrics type calculated that at the end of his career, LaPoint had been teammates of about one quarter of the players then in the Major Leagues. Fast forward to Larry Brown's coaching history. Certainly, he hasn't traveled as frequently as baseball legend Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, NBA guard Flynn Robinson (who always seemed, in the 70's, to be included in every major trade) and LaPoint. But he has traveled a lot. So the challenge to the true numbers types is to figure out what percentage of current NBA players has played for Larry Brown. My guess is somewhere around 15%, given that careers can be short-lived.

Second, from Whitey Herzog, the outstanding manager for the Kansas City Royals in the 1970's. He once was asked how much difference a manager could make for a baseball team, and his response was, "Give me horsebleep talent and a Hall of Famer manager or a horsebleep manager and Hall of Fame talent, and I'll bet on the horsebleep manager every time." Fast forward, again, to Coach Brown. All the kings horses and men couldn't fix Humpty Dumpty, so why does this guy think that he can fix the Knicks? Then again, the second questioner at today's Knicks press conference (after TV personality Warner Wolf) pointed out that the Knicks haver seven one-time lottery picks on their roster. Of course, ESPN The Insider (John Hollinger) has done an analysis of the lottery picks over the past ten seasons, and he rates the Knicks dead last in drafting acumen during that time (the bright spot: Trevor Ariza, last year's second-year pick, looks very promising). The general NBA consensus is that the Knicks' roster has all sorts of problems, and it's hard to figure that even a coach as skilled as Brown can nurture this team into a contender.

So, the Larry Brown gypsy caravan has made its way to New York after stops in about half a dozen NBA cities, the Carolina Cougars of the ABA, UCLA and Kansas. Knicks fans should be happy that their beloved franchise has spent dearly to retain a Hall of Fame coach. How he will deal with Hall of Fame personnel blunders will remain to be seen.

Those of us who remember the daily tension between the mellow beyond belief coach and the 76ers star player, Allen Iverson, will watch with bewilderment at the interactions between Brown, his shoot-first PG Stephone Marbury, and his gunning wing players -- Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson and Alan Houston. It wil not be that much fun. You could have hired Guy Williams, the oft-maligned University of Houston coach who coached Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the rest of Phi Slamma Jamma (Rob Williams, Larry Micheaux and Michael Young filled out the remainder of this Fab Five) to coach the Dream Team that played for the U.S. in the '92 Olympics and Larry Brown to coach the Brazilian national team with Oscar, the offensive-minded forward who shot incessantly from outside, and the U.S. would have won hands down.

You still need the players. Either Larry Brown knows something that we do not, or he will get frustrated in New York rather quickly. He's met many challenges before and well could be up to this one, but when Knick fans start to get giddy with this rift, they should always remember what Whitey Herzog said.

You need players.

Even if you're Larry Brown.

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