Knicks say Brown, Isiah to continue to talk

Updated: July 22, 2005, 9:44 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas sat together for four hours, their first face-to-face meeting to discuss whether the 64-year-old is healthy enough and interested enough to become coach of the New York Knicks.

The meeting took place Thursday night in eastern Long Island at Brown's summer home, and the sides plan to speak again soon.

"They had very positive conversations and are going to continue to talk," Knicks spokesman Joe Favorito said Friday.

Thomas waited patiently while the saga of Brown's departure from the Detroit Pistons played out, and Brown is clearly his choice to take over leadership of a rebuilding franchise that's been mediocre at best during the past several seasons.

As presently constructed, the Knicks don't fit the typical Brown mold.

Their point guard, Stephon Marbury, clashed with Brown when they were together on the U.S. Olympic team, and their two veteran starting centers from last season -- Nazr Mohammed and Kurt Thomas -- have been traded.

Aside from Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford, both with low career shooting percentages, the Knicks' shooting guards include gimpy-kneed Allan Houston, who could be waived before November in a luxury-tax saving move, and the over-the-hill Penny Hardaway, playing out the final season of a long-term contract that pays him more than $14 million next season.

Tim Thomas, a career underachiever, is New York's best small forward, while the front line will be manned by work-in-progress Michael Sweetney and free agent signee-to-be Jerome James, who brings an underachiever reputation along with him from Seattle.

And then there's defense, another key facet of all Brown's teams. The Knicks don't play it very well, and they also fail in the toughness category that Brown's Pistons teams so embodied.

Still, Brown loves challenges as much as he craves attention and new jobs.

His picture has been plastered across the back pages of the New York tabloids, and he even was interviewed and photographed at a boat harbor after returning from a leisurely afternoon with his family on the waters off Long Island, N.Y.

Photographers followed Brown's wife, Shelly, after she picked up Thomas from a small airport Thursday evening.

"If I'm speaking to them, I obviously have an interest," Brown said at a children's basketball clinic he conducted Thursday, according to several media reports. "But my concern is what is best for my family and if I can do it mentally."

Brown would be coaching his eighth NBA team if he takes over the Knicks, but he has expressed reservations in recent days about possibly nudging New York interim coach Herb Williams out of a job.

"I don't want to string this thing out for Herb or their organization," Brown said. "But the biggest thing, to be honest with you, is I've got to get it straight with my family what I'm going to do."

Brown's relationship with Marbury also will be a significant factor. Brown prefers his point guards to act as offensive initiators rather than scorers, but Marbury's style of play was at odds with Brown's philosophy.

"We've basically been trying to just pass, pass, pass to the point where we've been overpassing, because we're trying to play the right way, the way our coach wants to play," Marbury said upon his arrival in Belgrade last summer after the U.S. team struggled in tuneup games against Italy and Germany. "But there has to -- there's going to be -- a break-off, where we're just going to have to take those shots that we normally take and make."

When those comments were relayed to Brown later that day in lobby bar of the Belgrade Hyatt, the coach was so incensed that he stormed off to his room before sending assistant coach Gregg Popovich back downstairs to locate a copy of the story containing Marbury's quote.

Marbury ended up staying on the team, and Brown stuck with him as his starting point guard rather than turning that job over to Dwyane Wade.

Marbury struggled defensively against opposing point guards Carlos Arroyo and Sarunas Jasikevicius in opening-round losses to Puerto Rico and Lithuania. But by the time the U.S. team reached the quarterfinals, Brown had loosened his controls on Marbury to such a degree that Marbury broke the men's U.S. Olympic scoring record shared by Spencer Haywood and Charles Barkley by getting 31 points in a victory over Spain that moved the United States into the semifinals.

"Playing under coach Brown is not easy," Marbury said after the victory over Spain. "It's tough because he demands so much from you -- to try to play your game and try to do what he wants, and have that all combine in one has been a challenge to me. But it's been a great challenge."

Earlier this summer, Thomas vehemently denied a report that the Knicks were shopping Marbury in trade talks.

The team president has tried to foster a close relationship with Marbury, his neighbor in suburban New York, although Thomas did say at the close of last season that he was angry enough to trade his own mother.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press