Charlotte, N.C An upset Larry Brown shouted to stop Charlotte’s practice and hustled to the middle of the floor. He had problems with what three Bobcats did on offense and the positioning of two more on defense — all on the same play.
The perfectionist teacher and tactician bellowed out instructions as his players listened intently.
“He knows what all the players are supposed to be doing all the time. It’s just an innate ability,” said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a former assistant under Brown. “He sees the game in slow motion so to speak, and that’s the thing that amazes you most.”
The team Brown was instructing looked nothing like the club that started the season. After beginning 7-18, Brown has orchestrated three trades, used an NBA-high 24 players and has the fifth-year Bobcats in position to make the playoffs for the first time.
Three years removed from a nightmare season in New York, a motivated and energetic Brown is winning again.
But just like at any of Brown’s many other of stops, the question remains: How long will it last?
That’s the mystery of and fascination with the 68-year-old nomadic Hall of Famer. Coaches with NBA titles, such as Popovich and Boston’s Doc Rivers, rave about his knowledge and describe how they patterned their styles after him. Numerous players credit Brown with making them better.
Brown also has a history of wearing out management and players with his demands and quirky style — or bolting for another job before fulfilling his contract.
With the Bobcats, who recently set a team record with six straight wins, Brown is repeating turnaround acts he performed with the Spurs, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons. He even led the woebegone Los Angeles Clippers to the playoffs.
“Couldn’t say that in New York,” Brown was quick to point out. “We were bad and continued to be bad.”
The 23-59 record in one season with the Knicks in 2005-06 is the Brooklyn native’s only true blemish in a career that’s included more than 1,400 wins in the NBA, ABA and college. Brown is also the only coach to win NBA and NCAA titles.
And Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan from becoming the latest executive to take a chance on the guy who’s coached 12 teams.