Lawrence “Larry” Brown
(1940 - )
A University of North Carolina basketball star 1961-1963, Larry Brown won an Olympic gold medal in 1964 as a member of the champion United States Basketball Team. Brown was also a member of the 1961 United States gold medal Maccabiah basketball team.
Named All-Atlantic Coast Conference in 1963 and drafted by Baltimore of the NBA, Brown opted to play for Goodyear's (Ohio) AAU team, winning the MVP Award in the 1964 Amateur Athletic Union Tournament.
Brown played five seasons in the American Basketball Association (ABA) with New Orleans, Oakland, Washington, Virginia, and Denver, averaging 11.3 points per game. He played in three All-Star Games and led the ABA in assists. He set the ABA record with 23 assists in a game and was the Most Valuable Player of the ABA All-Star Game in 1968.
Brown turned to coaching in 1972, winning the ABA championship (Carolina Cougars) in his first season, and a second ABA title (Denver Nuggets) 1974-75, the year he was named the Leagues Coach of the Year (he won the award three times in four years). He continued with the Denver franchise in 1976-77 when it joined the NBA, winning two Division titles in three seasons. Shortly past mid-season 1978-79, Brown left the Broncos.
Within two months, he was named head coach at UCLA. In his first season, the Bruins were runners-up in NCAA Tournament. UCLA was ranked #3 the following year, but Brown resigned after an unsuccessful NCAA tourney.
Later that year, Brown was back coaching the NBAs New Jersey Nets. He led them to the playoffs in his first two seasons, but chose to become University of Kansas head coach the following year.
The Jayhawks enjoyed a 129-44 record from 1984 to 1988, winning the NCAA Championship in 1988. But, Brown was back in the NBA the following year. From 1988-1992, he coached the San Antonio Spurs to the playoffs two of three full seasons. He left the Spurs midway into the 1991-92 season, taking over the L.A. Clippers with less than half the season to play. Under Brown, the Clippers finished the NBA season in a flourish, and made the playoffs. The Clippers made the playoffs again the following season, but Brown resigned with two years left on his contract.
Brown moved to the NBAs Indiana Pacers in 1993, turning them into perennial championship contenders. On December 13, 1996, a Pacers win over the Boston Celtics gave the oft-traveled Brown 1,000 coaching victories (at that time his total wins included 594 in the NBA, 229 in the ABA, and 177 in college). In his four seasons, Brown ompiled a record of 190-138 (.579), became the Pacers’ all-time winningest coach, and led the team to the playoffs three times, including the Eastern Conference Finals twice.
In 1997, he exited to coach the Philadelphia 76ers and led them to five playoff appearance, the first of which earned Brown the distinction of becoming the first coach in NBA history to guide six franchises into the playoffs. In 2000-01, Brown led the club to 56 wins, the most since 1984-85, the best record in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division title. The 76ers went on to the NBA Finals, his first trip to the finals in 18 years as a NBA coach, but they were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. Nevertheless, Brown was named NBA Coach of the Year.
In 2003, after a six-year run, he left Philadelphia to coach the Detroit Pistons and led them to the 2003-2004 NBA Championship, becoming the first coach to win both a college national championship and the NBA crown. At age 62, Brown is the oldest coach to win an NBA title. Brown also took longer than any coach in NBA history, 22 years, to capture a crown, easily outpacing Red Auerbach (1957) and Bill Fitch (1981).
Brown's teams are known for hustle and defense, and the 2003-2004 champion Pistons exemplified those traits. The underdog team overwhelmed the heavily favored Lakers with those traits and led the league in defense. His teams have finished first in the division six times (1976-77 and 1977-78 with Denver; 1989-90 and 1990-91 with San Antonio; 1994-95 with Indiana and 2000-01 with Philadelphia).
Brown, has posted a winning record in 28 of his 32 seasons as a professional head coach or collegiate head coach, and compiled a 1,285-853 (.601) career record. In 21 NBA seasons he has a record of 933-713 (.567), ranking seventh all-time among NBA coaches in victories and second amongst active coaches.
In the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Brown served as an assistant coach on the gold medal Team USA. He is the only U.S. male to both play and coach in the Olympics. On November 26, 2002, Brown was named as the head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team. Brown led the USA Basketball team during the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico.
Brown was named head coach of the U.S. basketball team at the 2004 Athens Games. This follows the debacle at the 2002 World Championships, where the U.S. finished in sixth place — the first time in history that the USA, playing with NBA players, had lost an international game (they lost three in that tournament!). Brown 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."
The U.S.A played Puerto Rico in its first game as part of Preliminary Group B. All of the weaknesses inherent to the team, lack of cohesion, lack of outside shooting and inexperience in handling international zonal defense were apparent in their 92-73 loss. The team was 3-24 from outside the arch and was overwhelmed by Carlos Arroyo's magnificent 24 point performance. It was team U.S.A's first Olympic defeat since NBA players were introduced and their third overall. Brown realized his team had trouble with orderly European style defensive setups, and tried to transform the second game into favorable chaos.
On August 18, 2004, they played Greece in a messy, turnover rich encounter (19 for the U.S and 22 for Greece). Lebron James, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson made the most of the open court opportunities as the U.S won 77-71. In the third group game against Australia, the U.S came back from a 51-47 half time deficit to win 89-79. The Aussies were shooting an ungodly 61% from the field halfway through the third quarter before their numbers started to even out. Brown had obviously worked out several elaborate moves to isolate Allen Iverson mid-range shots. The U.S made the most of the more collaborative style and Shawn Marion (16 points) was particularly effective in breaking up Australia's zonal defense. The United States was beaten by Lithuania 94-90 in their fourth game Preliminary Group B. They were overawed by Maccabi Tel-Aviv point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius whose 28 points (including 4 three pointers in the fourth quarter) were instrumental in the victory.
On August 23, the U.S.A finally won an easy victory as they beat Angola 89-53, taking advantage of a 52-17 rebounding advantage. The U.S finally put together a creditable performance against a worthy opponent, as they beat Spain the quarterfinals 102-94. The team is more accustomed to zonal defense at this point, and they used Stephon Marbury's excellent shooting form to crack the continental setup open. At the end of the game Brown was involved in an altercation with Spanish coach Mario Pesquera, over a late American time out. Brown's charges lost the semifinal to Argentina 89-81, as the U.S lost the gold medal for the first time since 1988. Argentina was stunningly good and truly outplayed the pedestrian "dream team". The U.S won the bronze by beating Lithuania 104-96 in the third place decider.