DENVER -- Their hair is gray, their legs are shot and they
work on opposite sides of the bench these days. Still, it's always
a nice reunion when best buddies Larry Brown and Doug Moe are on
the court together.
One of the sport's great one-two combos -- two North Carolina Tar
Heels who played, coached and laughed a lot together in the old ABA
-- were on opposite benches Friday night when the Nuggets beat the
It was the first time the friends and one-time roommates had
coached against each other since 1992, when Brown was with the
Clippers and Moe was coaching the 76ers.
Moe is now an assistant for Denver and George Karl, another in
the long Tar Heel coaching legacy. Brown, who coached the Nuggets
with Moe as his assistant in the 1970s, now works for New York.
"I don't enjoy games like this," Brown said. "If you win,
you're happy for your team, but you're not happy for what happened
to the guy down there. You don't get a lot out of games like these,
in my mind."
And Moe? He feels the same way.
"It's the exact opposite of extra-special," he said. "It's
Nevertheless, most of their memories together have been good.
At dinner Thursday night, they reminisced about their first ABA
playing gig together, in 1967 with the New Orleans Buccaneers.
Naysayers told them they'd never make a penny playing in the
upstart league. Moe and Brown were both surprised when they went to
the team offices and each received $5,000 checks.
"First thing we did is went outside to make sure they weren't
written with disappearing ink," Moe said. "But the checks were
"I couldn't believe we were getting paid to play," Brown said.
The relationship continued through the rest of the life of the
ABA and beyond.
Moe, a first-team all-ABA player in the league's first season
whose career was marred by knee injuries, figured he'd never play
again after an umpteenth knee operation. He was recovering in the
hospital when Brown called and asked him to come be his assistant
with the Carolina Cougars.
"I knew I didn't really want to work, so I figured, why not?"
They went to the Nuggets together and made it to the ABA finals
in the league's last year of existence. But in 1976, the first
season after the merger, the San Antonio Spurs came calling. Moe
took the job reluctantly, figuring working as an assistant might be
a better ticket.
"I didn't care," he said. "I was very content to be Larry's
assistant. One thing, I knew he was going to have a job forever, so
I knew I'd have a job forever. It wasn't very taxing."
Moe, of course, made out very well on his own. He's the
winningest head coach in Nuggets history and his "jersey" has
been retired and hangs next to those of Dan Issel and Alex English
at the Pepsi Center.
Last year, Karl wooed "the Big Stiff" back to the bench.
"I thought he was as good a coach as we had in our league,"
Brown said. "I'm proud of what he did and I'm glad George gave him
the opportunity to come back."
Though time and many destinations separate Brown from the period
when he worked with Moe and the Nuggets, the trips back to Denver --
his first NBA job -- still stand out. So, of course, does his
relationship with Moe.
"It was a phenomenal franchise," he said. "It's nice to see
it coming back. The crowd's a little different than the ones I
remember, but I think they've done an amazing job. This franchise
is pretty special."