In The Scrum With Larry Brown
It’s not too often a coaching legend swings through town. However, that’s just what happened on Friday evening when Larry Brown and his Bobcats came through Toronto for a game. Adding to my good fortune was the fact that Charlotte didn’t have any traveling print media so I was able to pick the brain of a coaching legend as only myself and one other Toronto beat writer fired off questions to Brown in his pre-game media scrum.
Sit back, relax and enjoy some insight from one of the greatest minds in basketball.
Ryan McNeill: While doing research for this game I found out that you have interest in being part of the coaching staff for France. What’s the story behind that?
Larry Brown: I said I would go watch them workout and practice because I wouldn’t mind learning. But Boris (Diaw) and some of the guys asked me to be involved but I don’t want to interfer with their coach so it’s got to be okay with him. I’ve spoke to him already and I told him I would help in anyway (he needed) if he wanted me. But I would have probably been over there anyway watching because I admire the way they (play). The head of their Olympic committee was the head coach in 2000 when I was in Sydney so I have a lot of respect for him.
Reporter: Your team has undergone some big changes over the past few months. How have you gelled and gotten ready for the playoff race so quickly?
Brown: Well, you do most of your work in the preseason so it’s always tough to change but I’ve had Raja (Bell) before and Boris (Diaw) is such a bright guy who really understands how to play. Juwon (Howard) is another bright guy who understands how to play. We got Gana (Diop) and he knows his role. Then we got Vlade (Radmanovic) and he’s another guy who has been around this league. So, from that perspective, it’s been helpful that you have guys that are pretty cerebral and also guys that have been well coached. It’s been hard for all of us because as a coach you want to put your guys in the best possible position and I’m learning about them.
Reporter: It must be tough to figure that out during the course of a season…
Brown: We know their best positions but we don’t necessarily know what they do best and that’s always the responsibility of a coach. I had Raja (Bell) back in Philadelphia and I wouldn’t let him shoot the ball because I was trying to make him a point guard. Every time he shot I would yell at him. Now, he can shoot the ball and I’m trying to get him to re-invent his game a little bit. But this is fun because they are all great guys. I don’t think this is the ideal way to run or build a team, but we’ve been fortunate that with all the moves we’ve made these guys have the chance to be better. They are still young enough that I think that can be important parts of our team.
Reporter: Is playing significant games in late March and early April as significant as even making the playoffs?
Brown: I was telling our guys that as a college coach you never really understand the value of going to the Tournament until the next year when you realize you’re playing so many big games, you’re practicing when practices really mean a lot and when you can got to the Final Four it’s just an extra month of unbelievably important games. It’s the same thing now. We’ve been talking about how important games are for what seems like forever because we’re trying to change a culture. And now I don’t even look at the standings because I just want us to get better every practice, every game and every possession. Since they’ve been really paying attention to that I think we’ve really given ourselves a chance to win just about every game.
Reporter: Do they let you know what’s sticking with them? Can you see it on how they are conducting themselves?
Brown: I can hear it in their conversations because we have guys who are teaching the young kids. Raymond (Felton) hasn’t been in a playoff game. Meka hasn’t been in a playoff game. Gerald (Wallace) was in Sacramento but he wasn’t playing. These are all big parts of our team so it’s great for our organization and it’s great for them to have Nazr (Mohammed), Juwon (Howard), Boris (Diaw) and Raja (Bell) around.
McNeill: You talked earlier about how Boris Diaw’s high basketball IQ has helped him fit in quickly with your team. Can you expand upon that a bit for me?
Brown: He’s changed our team, but again there’s been a lot of guys who have helped us. All the new guys we’ve traded other than Jason (Richardson) aren’t playing. He was a great player but we got two starters for him and all the other guys who have gone they aren’t playing. So every one of the new guys have made a contribution. But Boris, he’s an under-rated defender, he’s an extra ball handler and he’s so unselfish it becomes contagious. He’s pretty darned good.