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Archive for Friday, December 22, 2006

Commentary: Brown could be waiting in the wings

December 22, 2006

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— Through the looking glass, Larry Brown appears ready to return to the 76ers. And it just gets interestinger and interestinger.

We know Sixers president Billy King, Brown's protege, consulted with Brown in the days leading up to the decision to trade Allen Iverson. We know King and Sixers chairman Ed Snider both acknowledged Wednesday night on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" that while Brown is not currently on the payroll, some kind of formal arrangement is being discussed.

The danger here is not for the Sixers. but for King. The danger is that Brown's apparently imminent return will forever overshadow the protege's career, even at a time when King has begun to make the series of personnel moves that were supposed to define his front-office tenure.

You wonder why.

You wonder, why now?

It happens in other sports, true enough. There are plenty of examples, in lots of places and in this very town - Dallas Green with the Phillies and, now, Bob Clarke with the Flyers - in which wise, old heads have returned to the organization to be, well, wise, old heads.

But it isn't only here. In baseball and in hockey, you see it all the time. When guys get done with the hurly-burly of coaching or general managing, when they get older and tired of the petulance and the agents and the rest, they still feel as if they have something to contribute, and there are young executives in lots of places who value the viewpoint of someone who has been around the block. So, in that sense, why not Brown?

It is true he left here as a villain, viewed by the customers as a coach who became a traitor. It is also true that King has continued his close relationship with Brown as he has traveled from coaching the Pistons to coaching the Knicks to being the best-paid unemployed guy in Lower Merion Township. That relationship never wavered, by all accounts. It never frayed. Even as King began to grow into his job, for better or worse, it has been said he and his mentor still talked all the time.

Brown helped invent King-the-executive. He helped invent Mo Cheeks-the-coach, too. Cheeks said Wednesday night, after a 12th straight loss - this one by 101-93 to the Indiana Pacers - that "I've never had a problem with Larry Brown being around."

All fine. But the overshadowing thing is a very real issue - for Cheeks maybe down the road, and for King right now. Back to that in a second, though.

Another issue is the impatience thing. Brown was legendarily impatient when he coached the Sixers. He wanted to trade Iverson at one point, fell in love and out of love with players at a memorable rate, didn't play kids without a gun to his temple, and always seemed to want to change, change, change as he gave of an air of beleaguered, beleaguered, beleaguered.

The problem with all of that is, the Sixers now have to be all about patience. They have to be all about playing kids. That is the course they have chosen in getting rid of Iverson in exchange for a point guard (Andre Miller), an expiring contract (Joe Smith), and two first-round draft choices (both probably in the bottom third of the round).

When it was determined that equivalent value could not be gotten in return for Iverson, the whole business became about the kids and the future.

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