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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Brown ‘excited about opportunity’

January 7, 2007

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— The only Hall of Fame coach the Philadelphia 76ers have is going to spend his days in the front office instead of on the bench.

Larry Brown was rehired by Philadelphia as an executive vice president Saturday, a return to the organization he coached to its last NBA finals. The move stoked speculation he'll eventually replace coach Maurice Cheeks.

And this time, Brown won't have to deal with Allen Iverson.

Nearly three weeks after Philadelphia traded away the player who tormented Brown during much of his six years with the team, Brown is back at a familiar stop in his vagabond career. He will assist team president Billy King and the basketball operations department, and work on special projects.

"Billy came to me and asked if I would be interested in getting involved with the organization again," Brown said. "Obviously, Billy has been a close friend for more than 20 years and I respect his work immensely. I am flattered that he asked me. I was very excited about the opportunity of working with him again and doing whatever I can to help him bring a winner to this city, a city that my family and I love."

The move was expected after Philadelphia traded Iverson to Denver last month. The day after the deal, King said he was talking to Brown about the possibility of rejoining the franchise he coached to the 2001 NBA finals.

"Larry Brown has been a friend and mentor to me for many years and his knowledge of the game of basketball is unparalleled," King said. "Adding his basketball knowledge to the existing staff gives us a valuable resource."

One of basketball's most well-traveled coaches, Brown has been King's mentor since he hired him as an assistant coach in Indiana. When Brown came to Philadelphia in 1997, he brought King with him as vice president of basketball administration. King became team president after Brown resigned in 2003.

While Brown's arrival sparked instant buzz in Philadelphia, it could be a headache for Cheeks. Cheeks, who was an assistant under Brown, had a losing record last season in his first year coaching the Sixers. They are a miserable 9-24 this season and headed toward another draft lottery.

King said in an e-mail to The Associated Press he was not worried that Brown's presence would be an unwanted distraction for Cheeks. King did not say if he offered Cheeks any assurances that he would at least finish this season.

Brown was an unofficial adviser this season, consulting with King on the Iverson deal. He went mostly unnoticed, but he visited Sixers and Villanova practices and attended a few games. He might have to make himself more familiar with the roster. Joe Smith, Samuel Dalembert and Kevin Ollie are the only players left on the team that he coached in Philadelphia.

Too bad there won't be an entertaining sequel to Brown-Iverson I. The 66-year-old Hall of Fame coach had a contentious relationship with Iverson, but the two worked together despite several disputes.

Iverson was often late for practices, or skipped them, leading to blowups with Brown. Former team president Pat Croce acted as mediator, once sitting the combustible pair in a room and persuading them to hash out their differences.

Brown and Iverson eventually reconciled, and Brown named his former guard co-captain of the 2004 Olympic men's basketball team.

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