Source: Brown believes Knicks will fire him

Updated: May 17, 2006, 8:47 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

A source has told ESPN that Larry Brown has told friends there is no question in his mind that he will be fired by the New York Knicks.

The source also said Brown has told friends that no one from the Knicks has spoken directly to him in the last three weeks. Brown had bladder surgery Friday and is recovering at his home in suburban New York.

Brown's agent, Joe Glass, said he did hear from Knicks president Isiah Thomas on Monday and Thomas told him there was no truth to reports that the Knicks wanted to buy out Brown's contract.

"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 on Monday.

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. The New York Post reported Tuesday that the Knicks are hoping they can buy out Brown for $25 million.

Glass, said, however, that the team would have to fire Brown to get rid of him.

"There's been no discussion of a buyout and there won't be a discussion of a buyout," Glass told the New York Post for Wednesday's editions. "We're not going to accept a settlement. He's coaching the Knicks or they're firing him -- one way or another. There's not going to be a $25 million buyout."

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 and move on with a new coach.

That coach would almost certainly be 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 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."

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.

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 be 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 Knicks owner Jim Dolan, although Brown has reportedly 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.

Information from ESPN Insider Chris Sheridan and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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