Former coach to return to Sixers as executive VP

Updated: January 7, 2007, 3:00 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The only Hall of Fame coach the Philadelphia 76ers have is going to spend his days in the front office instead of on the bench.

Larry Brown was rehired by Philadelphia as an executive vice president Saturday, a return to the organization he coached to its last trip to the NBA Finals, and stoking speculation that he'll eventually replace coach Maurice Cheeks and revive one of the worst teams in the NBA.

And this time, Brown won't have to clash with Allen Iverson.

Nearly three weeks after Philadelphia traded away the player who tormented him during much of his six years as their coach, Brown is back at a familiar stop in his vagabond career. He will assist team president Billy King and the basketball operations department, and work on special projects.

"Billy came to me and asked if I would be interested in getting involved with the organization again," Brown said. "Obviously, Billy has been a close friend for more than 20 years and I respect his work immensely. I am flattered that he asked me. I was very excited about the opportunity of working with him again and doing whatever I can to help him bring a winner to this city, a city that my family and I love."

The move was expected after Philadelphia traded Iverson to Denver last month. The day after the deal, King said he was talking to Brown about the possibility of rejoining the franchise he coached to the 2001 NBA Finals.

"Larry Brown has been a friend and mentor to me for many years and his knowledge of the game of basketball is unparalleled," King said. "Adding his basketball knowledge to the existing staff gives us a valuable resource."

One of basketball's most well-traveled coaches, Brown has been King's mentor since he hired him as an assistant coach in Indiana. When Brown came to Philadelphia in 1997, he brought King with him as vice president of basketball administration. King became team president after Brown resigned in 2003.

While Brown's arrival sparked instant buzz in Philadelphia, it could be a headache for Cheeks. Cheeks, who was an assistant under Brown, had a losing record last season in his first year coaching the Sixers. They are a miserable 9-24 this season and headed toward another draft lottery.

King said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he was not worried that Brown's presence would be an unwanted distraction for Cheeks. King did not say if he offered Cheeks any assurances that he would at least finish this season.

Brown was an unofficial adviser this season, consulting with King on the Iverson deal. He went mostly unnoticed, but he visited Sixers and Villanova practices and attended a few games.

He might have to make himself more familiar with the roster. Joe Smith, Samuel Dalembert and Kevin Ollie are the only players left on the team that he coached in Philadelphia.

Too bad there won't be an entertaining sequel to Brown-Iverson I. The 66-year-old Hall of Fame coach had a contentious relationship with Iverson, but the two worked together despite several disputes.

Iverson was often late for practices, or skipped them, leading to blowups with Brown. Former team president Pat Croce acted as mediator, once sitting the combustible pair in a room and persuading them to hash out their differences.

Brown and Iverson eventually reconciled and Brown named his former guard co-captain of the 2004 Olympic men's basketball team.

"That's a good move. He'll do a great job," Iverson said after the Nuggets' loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Nuggets coach George Karl, a close friend of Brown's, felt the same way.

"I think he'll do a great job," said Karl, who has yet to talk to him about his new position. "I think Larry was wanting to go into management to where he can philosophize and direct a team from the ownership box rather than the coaching box. ... He knows wins and I think he'll fit them into Philadelphia very quickly."

Brown's Philadelphia reunion also allows him to possibly end his career with more civility than the way he left the New York Knicks after one disastrous season. Brown, in his only season in New York, was fired by the Knicks in June after going 23-59 and clashing with team president Isiah Thomas.

With the Knicks, Brown criticized players through the media and talked to the press without a public relations official present -- actions that violated policies of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. Also, the Knicks said Brown undermined Thomas by making trade offers to other teams, which he wasn't authorized to do.

The Knicks withheld the remainder of Brown's contract, which had four years and more than $40 million left, saying they fired Brown for cause. The dispute went before commissioner David Stern, but the sides compromised in October before Stern's ruling, in which Brown got $18.5 million and both sides were freed of any future obligations to each other.

Brown's job with the 76ers was his longest with any team in his 34-year coaching career. He took the job at Detroit and led the Pistons to an NBA title in the first of his two seasons there before his disastrous season in New York.

When Brown left the 76ers for the Pistons after the 2002-03 season, he had two years left on a contract that paid him $6 million a season. The Sixers released him from a contractual clause that prohibited him from coaching another NBA team if he left Philadelphia prematurely.

Brown led Kansas to the NCAA championship in 1988.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press