Brown, Larry : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Brown, Larry

Lawrence Brown

Larry's legendary coaching career started yet another chapter when on July 28, 2005, Brown was named the new coach of the New York Knicks, who hoped this great coach could restore the franchise to its former glory. Larry had just parted company with the Detroit Pistons, whom he had led to consecutive appearances in the NBA finals, sweeping the Lakers in the first and extending the Spurs to a seventh and final game in the 2005 Championship.

On June 15, 2004, the Detroit Pistons completed their shocking thrashing of the mighty Los Angeles Lakers to give Piston coach Larry Brown his first NBA Championship. The 4-1 Finals victory (none of the victories was especially close) made Brown, who has coached for 32 years at the college and professional levels, the first coach to win both an N.C.A.A. and an N.B.A. championship (he took Kansas to the college crown in 1988). The only American to ever both play and coach in the Olympics, Larry is also the only person in history to win an Olympic gold medal in basketball as both a player and coach. He coached the American Olympians in the 2004 Olympics as well.

The day after Detroit won their crown, The New York Times (June 17, 2004) wrote: "Larry Brown, who at least once a day tells his team to 'play the right way,' who would rather uphold the spirit of competition than engage in Hack-a-Shaq, who gets the greatest pleasure out of the smallest hint of improvement, won his first N.B.A. championship Tuesday night with a club that was the embodiment of what he has preached for more than 30 years....The proper way was the only way for Larry Brown, 63, to win the title. 'Anyone that's been around Coach Brown knows that he's a big believer in some basic principles of how to win basketball games and how to put together a team,' Stu Jackson, the chairman of the senior men's committee for USA Basketball, said on Wednesday. 'And that is a team that's based upon, as he terms it, playing the right way -- playing excellent defense, playing unselfishly on offense, everybody committing themselves to rebounding the basketball and committing themselves to the team before themselves. The Detroit Pistons exemplify those principles, so it's very fitting.' "

In 2001, Brown led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals and was named Coach of the Year. In 2004 Larry became Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons and led Detroit to a 54-28 regular season record, good for second place in the Central Division. After defeating the two-time Eastern Conference champions New Jersey Nets in the semifinals, the Pistons defeated the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals to reach the NBA Finals. In Brown's second trip as a coach to the Finals, the Pistons stunned the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers, winning the first game handily, losing the second in L.A. in overtime, then easily sweeping the next three in Detroit, completing the triumph with a 100-87 rout.

Before becoming a coach, Brown was also a terrific player, first at the University of North Carolina and then in the ABA (American Basketball Association), where he was a three-time All-Star. Larry also won a gold medal as a member of the 1964 U.S. OIympic team, and was an assistant coach of the gold-medal champs at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. Brown is the fifth Jewish Head Coach to win an NBA title (the others are Gottlieb, Auerbach, Holzman, and Harrison).

On May 26, 2003, with the NBA season having ended, Brown announced that he was stepping down as Philadelphia's coach after a successful six-year tenure during which he led his team to the playoffs five straight years, including the 2001 NBA Finals. Exactly one week later -- on June 2, 2003 -- Larry agreed to coach the Detroit Pistons, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Detroit's team president of operations, Joe Dumars, said of Larry that "He is the pre-eminent coach in the league to me."

One of the great coaches in basketball history, Brown -- who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on June 5, 2002 -- was also named head coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team. Larry said in a statement, "I look at this as an unbelievable honor, one that I don't take lightly. I understand how many great coaches there are out there who are deserving of this opportunity, and I feel so honored to be chosen. I will do my very best to represent USA Basketball and the NBA. This is what makes coaching worthwhile." USA Basketball president Tom Jernstedt noted that "Larry Brown is clearly among basketball's most successful and respected coaches. His contributions to the game and achievements at all levels make him the ideal coach to lead the United States' international basketball efforts through the 2004 Summer Olympic Games."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept 14, 1940

Career Highlights:
A collegiate and professional star long before his coaching days, from 1960-63, Brown was a mainstay at guard for North Carolina, helping them finish first in the ACC his sophomore year (1960-61) -- that year, Brown also played on the U.S. team at the Maccabiah Games (with Mike Cingiser and Art Heyman. The following year, Larry averaged a career high 16.5 points per game as the Tar Heels finished the season 8-9 (7-7 in the ACC). In the first round of the ACC tournament, Brown scored 18 points and added three rebounds, but fouled out of the game as the Tar Heels lost to South Carolina, 57-55.

In 1962-63, Brown averaged 14.2 points per game, was co-captain of UNC, and was named All-ACC first team. The Tar Heels finished the regular season with a record of 15-6 (10-4 in the ACC). In the ACC tournament, Brown was outstanding with 12 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds as UNC defeated South Carolina in the first round, 93-76. The Tar Heels were edged by Wake Forest in the semifinal game, though, 56-55. Larry finished his career at UNC having played 56 games, in which he averaged 11.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

In 1963, Brown was selected by the Baltimore Bullets in the seventh round (56th overall) of the NBA Draft, but was never approached by the team to play for them. In 1964, he played on an AAU team in Ohio, was named the MVP at the AAU tournament, and then won a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics.

In 1967, Larry joined the newly-formed ABA, which became the NBA's rival league. The ABA was noted for its up-tempo, high-scoring games, and Brown became an instant star in the league, playing for the New Orleans Buccaneers. During the 1967-68 season, he averaged 14.0 points and 6.7 assists per game, was named MVP of the ABA All-Star game, and was second team All-ABA. The Buccaneers finished the regular season with a 48-30 record, first in the Western Division; but they lost in the ABA Finals to the Pittsburgh Pipers, 4-3.

The following season, Brown played for the Oakland Oaks, and averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 assists per game (best in the league) while leading the Oaks both to a spectacular 60-18 regular season record, and to the ABA Championship itself. He then played another three seasons in the ABA for the Washington Capitols, Virginia Squires, and Denver Rockets. He retired at the end of the 1971-72 season.

In 1972-73, Brown began coaching in the ABA for the Carolina Cougars, and was named ABA Coach of the Year as the Cougars finished with a league-best 57-27 regular season record; the previous year, the Cougars had compiled a losing record of 35-49. Brown was named ABA Coach of the Year twice more -- in 1974-75, and again in 1975-76 -- while coaching the Denver Nuggets.

In 1976, the ABA merged with the NBA and Brown coached the Nuggets in the NBA from 1976-1979, compiling a record of 126-91. In 1980, Larry moved to UCLA, leading the Bruins to a No. 4 ranking and the NCAA championship game. In 1981, Brown returned to the NBA to coach the New Jersey Nets. He left in 1983 to coach the University of Kansas. In 1988, he led the Jayhawks to the National Championship.

Brown returned to the NBA following his NCAA title to coach the San Antonio Spurs, winning two division titles. In January 1992, however, he was fired for the first in his career. Less than two weeks later, Brown signed on to coach the Los Angeles Clippers. He stayed for two seasons, leading the Clippers to the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. In 1993, he resigned as Clippers coach and joined the Indiana Pacers. He coached the Pacers until 1997, when he resigned after posting only his second losing season in 25 years of coaching. Five days after leaving the Pacers, Brown became coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.

In only four seasons, Brown turned the Sixers from one of the worst teams in the league (a 22-60 record in 1996-97, the year before he took over), to the top team in the East. During the 2000-01 season, Brown won his 1,000th career professional game (ABA and NBA combined). After the game, Larry said, "It's a thrill. Not many people get to be in this league, let alone get to be around as long as I have and have this opportunity. I said a long time ago that I'm doing exactly what I want to do. I'm pretty fortunate. It's nice with this group and this staff. I've enjoyed every place I've been, but this is a basketball town and I've got a bunch of guys who try to play the right way. That's how I was taught to coach."

Later in the 2000-01 season, Brown led the 76ers to the NBA Finals, winning the Eastern Conference championship with a 56-26 record. It marked Philadelphia's first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1983, and Larry's first trip as a coach to the championship round. Although the Los Angeles Lakers won the title 4-1, Brown's feisty, resilient squad gave the Lakers their toughest challenge of their season; in fact, Philadelphia was the only team to defeat the Lakers in any of their postseason games.

On May 23, 2001, Brown won the NBA Coach of the Year Award. This award complemented the three Coach of the Year Awards (in four seasons) Larry had won years earlier in the ABA. Brown's coach at North Carolina, Dean Smith, who surprised Brown by appearing at the NBA news conference, said: "What a great honor this is for Larry Brown. He's a born coach."

Despite being hit with a rash of injuries all season (including numerous injuries to star guard Allen Iverson), Larry and the 76ers managed to compile a winning record in 2001-2002 -- their 43-39 mark was good enough to make the playoffs -- but Philly was eventually defeated in a tough series by the Indiana Pacers. In 2002-03, the 76ers finished the regular season with a record of 48-34 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, despite Brown having guided them to victory in 23 of their last 33 contests. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, they defeated the New Orleans Hornets, 4-2. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the 76ers were defeated by the Detroit Pistons, 4-2, losing twice in overtime and a third game on a last-second goaltending call.

As head coach of numerous teams in both college and NBA ball, Larry has posted winning records in 28 of his 32 seasons. Through the 2003-04 season, Brown had compiled a record of 833-713 in the NBA, and 1,339-881 overall, including the ABA and college. Larry is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. He is the twentieth Jewish inductee into the Hall of Fame.

Brooklyn, New York

Career Dates:
Brown played guard at the University of North Carolina, 1959-1963. He played guard in the ABA with the New Orleans Buccaneers in 1967-68, the Oakland Oaks in 1968-69, the Washington Capitols in 1969-70, the Virginia Squires in 1970-71, and the Denver Rockets in 1971-1972.

Physical description:
5'11", 160 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the ABA:
Games: 376
Points: 4,229
Points Per Game: 11.2

Field Goals Made: 1,384
Field Goals Attempted: 3,357
Field Goal Percentage: .412

Free Throws Made: 1,413
Free Throws Attempted: 1,737
Free Throw Percentage: .813

Rebounds: 1,005
Rebounds Per Game: 2.7
Assists: 2,509
Assists Per Game: 6.7

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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)