Brown wants to remain tied to Jordan

Updated: June 5, 2009, 2:57 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown would be "nervous" if an ownership change stripped Michael Jordan of his role running the team's basketball operations.

Brown said Friday that he hasn't spoken to majority owner Bob Johnson, who is looking to sell after losing millions of dollars. Jordan owns a minority stake, but Johnson has granted him the final say on basketball personnel decisions. Jordan hired Brown before last season.

Jordan, who gave Brown his record-ninth NBA head coaching job before last season, said in February that he'd like to someday become majority owner. But Jordan has declined to address Johnson's desire to sell since, and there are questions if Jordan would agree to pay what Johnson wants.

If Michael is not involved I'd be nervous about that. I came here because of Michael. He's special and he's great to be around. We need him engaged and involved ... If he's gone, he's the guy who hired me. I don't know.

-- Bobcats coach Larry Brown

A different owner might force Jordan out of his position or demand he first pay more for a larger stake in the team.

"If Michael is not involved I'd be nervous about that," Brown said after putting six prospects through a draft workout. "I came here because of Michael. He's special and he's great to be around. We need him engaged and involved.

"If he's gone, he's the guy who hired me. I don't know."

Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and the first black majority owner of a major professional sports team, paid $300 million for the expansion franchise. The team began play in the 2004-05 season and replaced the Hornets, who moved to New Orleans in 2002.

Johnson, who declined an interview request Friday, is using a New York-based sports financial services firm to seek additional investors. The team has downplayed the prospects of Johnson giving up majority control. But speaking at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, NBA commissioner David Stern hinted a sale is likely.

"I don't know what Michael's plans are but I do know that Charlotte is an extraordinary market," Stern said. "They led our league in attendance for many, many years. It's got a terrific new building.

"And I'm sure that whoever the next owner is will fully realize the potential of the market based upon a very good start that Bob has made in bringing basketball back to Charlotte."

Johnson has suffered several missteps, including a failed endeavor to start a regional sports network. Ticket sales had been tepid as fans still hold misgivings about the NBA after the Hornets' stormy departure. Johnson has struggled to make friends in the business community and sponsorship sales have lagged.

Johnson has overhauled the front office and before last season laid off 38 people in non-basketball operations jobs.

This year, though, the basketball budget is being targeted. The team will no longer field a summer league team and will hold training camp at home instead of in Jordan's hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

"Obviously there have been a lot of cuts," Brown said. "Summer league, we're not going to go away for training camp, so it impacts us a lot what's going on. All we can do is get our team ready."

Brown, a Hall of Famer and the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA title, has a history of not staying in one job long. His ties with Jordan, a fellow North Carolina alumnus, led him to resume his career in Charlotte after one ugly season with New York in 2005-06 left him out of coaching.

Brown guided the Bobcats to a 35-47 record this season after three trades dramatically changed the makeup of the team. The Bobcats, who hold the 12th pick in this month's draft, hope they can reach the playoffs for the first time next season amid uncertainty at the top.

"You don't know who's coming in here and how they feel about the job we did or our capabilities," Brown said. "But I have no control over that."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press