Agent says Brown still expecting to coach Knicks
NEW YORK -- Larry Brown's agent said Monday his client plans to return as coach of the Knicks next season unless he's asked to leave, almost an exact duplication of what he was saying a year ago when Brown was well on his way to leaving Detroit.
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"As far as we're concerned, he's coach of the Knicks and he's going to remain the coach of the Knicks unless we're told otherwise," said Joe Glass, Brown's longtime agent.
Later in the day, Glass and Thomas discussed the coach's status by phone.
"I spoke to Isiah Thomas earlier this afternoon and he categorically denied that there's any substances to what was in the paper," Glass told The Associated Press.
But while no formal buyout talks have begun, it's clear the Knicks have made it known to Brown that they're open to the notion of a settlement on the four years and $40 million remaining on Brown's contract.
Brown signed the deal amid much hoopla last July, taking over what he once called a "dream job" and then leading the Knicks through a nightmarish season.
League insiders told ESPN.com that the Knicks, looking at things from a practical and financial standpoint, feel they'd be best served to cut their losses with Brown rather than undergo the type of large scale roster overhaul that would be needed to placate him. In other words, why trade Stephon Marbury for less-than-star players whose contracts will carry huge luxury taxes, when they can simply buy out Brown for something in the area of $25 million and move on with a new coach.
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That coach would almost certainly be team president Isiah Thomas, who assembled the roster that Brown found so difficult to coach. Thomas and Marbury have been close throughout their two-plus years together in New York, and there's a school of thought that if anybody is able to get through to Marbury and turn him into a winner -- or at least a better teammate -- it might just be Thomas.
"Based on our record, that's normal for anybody to have that speculation," the Knicks' point guard told The AP of the reports that Brown may be cut loose. As for the possibility of Isiash Thomas becoming coach, Marbury said: "I wouldn't mind, it doesn't matter who coaches. I don't care if Larry Brown comes back. I wouldn't mind at all."
Thomas did not return phone calls Monday for a second straight day, and Glass said Brown was recovering from a medical procedure and was not yet prepared to speak publicly. The Knicks again had no comment, their silence speaking volumes about the legitimacy of the story first reported Sunday by the New York Post that they've already made up their minds to get rid of Brown.
Brown perplexed his players and eventually lost their support by constantly switching lineups and rotations, never quite settling on any set combination over the course of the entire 82-game season. His penchant for making thinly veiled criticisms of his players through the media irked his players nearly as much as it bothered the team's corporate owners at Cablevision.
Despite the players' and management's strangely rosy pronouncements on the day after the season ended, all was certainly not well inside the franchise. One of Brown's final moves that left several key people scratching their heads was his use (or non-use) of Steve Francis and Jalen Rose after they were acquired at midseason.
With so much dysfunction and detest hanging in the air, Knicks brass clearly realized something needed to be done. And in a culture where Cablevision typically writes a severance check to make its problems go away, the easiest solution in this case seems to be buying out Brown.
"I'm not going to comment on Larry's feelings through all this, and there really isn't anything else to say," said Glass, who negotiated Brown's $7 million buyout with the Pistons last July after Detroit owner Bill Davidson also came to the realization that he'd better off with a different coach. The divorce of the Pistons and Brown turned into a bitter breakup, and this one appears to be heading that way, too.
The likely next step in the process would be a meeting between Brown and Dolan, although Brown reportedly has asked for one and was turned down.
And with Glass saying no buyout talks have been discussed as of yet, this breakup could drag on through next week when the Knicks will learn the consequences of another of their mistakes -- trading their No. 1 pick to Chicago for Eddy Curry. The Bulls will learn next Tuesday at the draft lottery, where they'll be among the mathematical favorites, where the pick formerly owned by the Knicks will fall in the draft.
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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