AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — The old coach was booed, cheered and, in a moving display of class and affection, the same Detroit Pistons' starting five that gave Larry Brown an NBA championship walked over to the Knicks' bench and hugged him.
"It was pretty emotional for him," said Rasheed Wallace, who was the first to embrace Brown before tipoff of Friday night's game. "He's a pretty emotional cat. So I think it was something that he enjoyed. I was just paying my respects."
Brown was visibly moved by the gesture and probably will remember the moment forever. As for the game, it only reinforced his belief that his former team still is a title contender and his current group has its work cut out for it.
With Brown being taunted with chants of "New York Clippers" and Rip Hamilton outscoring the Knicks' starting five, the Pistons won,106-98, to improve to 12-2. The Knicks fell to 5-10.
"Someone told me I've coached 3,630 games and I should treat this like one game," Brown said. "I don't know about that.
"I dreaded this the whole game," Brown said of playing the team he coached for two seasons.
Brown later said of The Palace of Auburn Hills that "there is not a better building in the world in my mind," obviously forgetting for a moment that he works at the World's Most Famous Arena. Despite those feelings for his old workplace, Brown refused to venture outside of his office before the game.
Brown normally spends an hour on the floor mingling with players and coaches during warmups, but Friday night he kept his promise to "hide until it's game time."
Brown finally made his grand entrance one minute before the national anthem and was mostly greeted with cheers from the late-arriving crowd. But when Brown formally was introduced, the boos drowned out the applause.
"I'm not totally deaf even though I'm losing a lot of my hearing," Brown said before the game. "They've got to do what they've got to do."