Larry Brown's love affair with Iverson

Former 76ers coach Larry Brown likes to say he was put on Earth to coach Allen Iverson. How is George McGinnis supposed to feel?
Former 76ers coach Larry Brown likes to say he was put on Earth to coach Allen Iverson. How is George McGinnis supposed to feel? (File Photo)
Posted: February 19, 2014

NEWS ITEM: Former 76ers coach Larry Brown said Sunday that he was "sick" that he wouldn't be able to attend Allen Iverson's jersey-retirement ceremony on March 1. "I know a lot of people think we banged heads and stuff like that," Brown said, "but I know God put me here to coach him."

Are you there, Larry? It's Me, God.

First things first: I'm sorry that you and your Southern Methodist team lost to Temple on Sunday. Tough one. I actually watched the game from beginning to end. That's one of the perks of being all-powerful and all-knowing. You can actually find the CBS Sports Network on Comcast's channel grid. (No. 854, for future reference.)

Anyway, I wanted to talk with you about what you said after the game - about My putting you on Earth to coach Allen. Got to be honest, Larry. I wasn't thrilled you said this.

For one thing, you're wrong. I don't do that. I realize I'm getting into some profound theological and philosophical issues here, but bear with Me and understand this. I don't put people on Earth with their entire lives already mapped out, with everything predetermined. Instead, I give human beings free will. I give them the ability to make choices for themselves, to determine their own outcomes.

Which brings Me back to you. Let's take a good, long look at your career, Larry. Since 1972, you've been the head coach for 10 professional basketball franchises and three Division I programs. Do you know how many times you've been fired over those 42 years? Twice. (Yes, the Detroit Pistons bought out your contract, which means they sort of, kind of fired you. But they did that only after you'd batted your eyes at the Cleveland Cavaliers while you were coaching the Pistons in the NBA Finals.)

So with the exception of that one lousy season with the New York Knicks and your two-plus seasons with the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, you're the one who decided to leave all those places. You even decided to leave the Sixers to take the Pistons job. Tell Me, Larry: If I put you here to coach Allen Iverson, why did you ditch him?

I think I know. (Well, of course I know. I'm God. But sometimes I have to feign humility. It would be unbecoming to do otherwise.) You've got quite a selective memory about the six years you spent with Allen and the Sixers, Larry. Every time you talk about Philadelphia, you mention only the good parts - the 2001 All-Star Game, Allen's MVP award and your coach of the year award, that out-of-nowhere run to the NBA Finals, all the times Allen credited you for making him a better player and person. And yes, there were a lot of good parts.

But you conveniently leave out that you wanted the Sixers to trade Allen during the summer of 2000. That you pestered team president Pat Croce so often about it that he later said, "I learned the 24-hour rule: Don't let Larry trade anyone within 24 hours." That you'd gotten so tired of dealing with Allen's selfishness - taking all those shots and not playing the game, as you like to put it, "the right way" - and his casual disregard for your advice and coaching that you wanted to wash your hands of him.

(Who came up with that metaphor? That's right: THIS GUY. Feigning humility is overrated.)

Plus, think about all the other great players you've coached: Billy Cunningham, Bobby Jones, David Thompson, Dan Issel, Paul Silas, George McGinnis, Kiki Vandeweghe, Buck Williams, Danny Manning, David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Dikembe Mutombo, Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups. I could go on, and I didn't even mention the less-accomplished players to whom you've grown closest over the years: Eric Snow, George Lynch, and others. Do you really expect people to believe that I didn't put you here to coach any of those guys? That Allen is the only one who counts?

That's what it sounds like when you say what you said Sunday, Larry, and the thing is, you keep saying it. You said it to The Inquirer's Mike Jensen in November. You said it to Grantland.com earlier this month. You say it because you think it's what people want to hear, and you shouldn't do that. It's self-serving. It's disingenuous. And trust Me: It will only open you up to ridicule from sports columnists, and you don't want that. They can always get the last word in, and they all think they're Me.


msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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