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Friday, June 23, 2006

Going Overboard

The mainstream media is having a field day trashing Larry Brown.

And to the degree that at least one writer, Ian O'Connor of USA Today has done it, they're wrong.

Brown is no saint, he's traveled more in his career than Gulliver, and he's done so iffy things in the past several years. Yes, he is not perfect, and yes, he has moved around a lot, and yes, despite his comatose monotone before the media he's a high-maintenance type who can't get along everywhere and moves on when the timing is right for him. But he has won everywhere he's been except New York, has won an NBA and NCAA title, and is generally regarded as a coaching legend.

But he's not the shameful disgrace that O'Connor makes him out to be. Read this, and then figure out whether today's columnists are asked, like they were in Red Smith's day, to write thoughtful pieces on the matters of the day or to trash a legend for sport so people around water coolers can say, "Hey, click onto O'Connor's piece today. He trashed a priest, three nuns and two altar boys regarding a hard foul in the finals of the East Orange CYO league. Really wicked stuff. Glad to see that those holy so-and-sos are brought down a few pegs."

I do agree with the sentiments that it's time for Larry Brown to retire, but I'm not sure that every NBA franchise will stay away from him. They brought Hubie Brown back from a long hiatus, and they brought Mike Fratello back from a shorter one. Dick Vermeil and Joe Gibbs came back to the NFL after long absences. Heck, Larry Brown has only been gone for a day. That said, given his last two episodes -- in Detroit and New York -- he's a serious argument for caveat emptor.

But let's not gloss over the bigger travesty in this whole drama -- the New York Knicks, owner James Dolan, and President for Life Idi Amin, oops, I mean Isiah Thomas, whose long-lived career belies the lack of success that he's had everywhere in pro basketball since he's stopped playing. The Knicks gave up their first-round picks this year and next for Eddy Curry (this year's is a top 3 pick), they have by far the highest payroll in the NBA and the lowest $ per win ratio in the league. Dolan and Thomas, plain and simple, have failed. A public skerewing of Larry Brown is akin to the President's starting an international incident in Wag the Dog to divert the public's attention away from the major issues of the day. But by gutting Brown very publicly, getting macho about his contract, and then spinning the story to let the press play the role of turkey vultures and pick at the carcass, the Knicks' administration is, again, focused on entirely the wrong issue.

One, the owners should sell the entire shebang, whether is Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and the Rangers or just the Knicks. Second, failing that, the Dolan elders should kick young Jimmy in the seat of his pants and let him try running the Brooklyn Cyclones before running anything at the highest level. Third, they should fire Isiah Thomas. How hard a decision is that?

The fans shouldn't fall for this folly. The writers needed a story and Brown served as today's pinata. Yes, he is flawed, but I would submit no more flawed than writers who have taken to gutting him instead of reminding everyone that Brown's demise is but a sideshow in the bigger story -- the Farce of the New York Knicks.

No, Ian O'Connor, Larry Brown shouldn't be giving a Hall of Shame speech anytime soon. True, he's made mistakes, but most of the players and coaches who get written about have.

Even mainstream sports writers err from time to time.

Or were you the only one who, starting 10 years ago, thought something was funny about the puffed-up sizes of position players in baseball and started crying foul and going into the locker room and asking players whether their muscles were real?


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