Coach might retire after offseason surgery

Updated: June 7, 2005, 12:34 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Larry Brown skipped up the sideline like a giddy child, and then the 64-year-old coach shuffled back toward the bench to embrace his players.

Though time was left on the clock, Brown knew he could keep coaching the Detroit Pistons because they were safely ahead of the Miami Heat.

The defending champion Pistons beat Miami 88-82 on Monday night in the Eastern Conference finals, earning a rare road win in a Game 7 and extending Brown's Hall of Fame coaching career.

Detroit's Antonio McDyess, easily making his longest postseason run, had an up-close view of Brown's joy toward the end of the game.

"He looked more excited than anybody on this team, and I didn't think anybody would appreciate this more than me," said McDyess, who played for Phoenix and New York last season. "He looked like he was young enough to go out there and play."

Detroit will travel to face the San Antonio Spurs, the 2003 and 1999 champions, on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

"My son said if we win, it's a win-win because we play in the finals against Pop," said Brown, referring to his good friend, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. "My daughter said, if we win, it's a win because I get to see Pop. If we lose, she goes to the Hamptons."

The Browns might have to go to their vacation home on Long Island without their famous father because when Detroit's season is over, he will check into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to address a medical problem that developed after complications from hip surgery early in the season. If surgeons are not able to correct his problems, Brown plans to retire from coaching.

If Brown can't coach, preaching his "play the right way" mantra, he is expected to pick up a front office job in the NBA, perhaps with the Cavaliers.

Brown said he was sentimental before Game 6, when the Pistons hosted Miami, because he knew it might have been the last time he was able to do what he loves with the kind of team he always dreamed of coaching.

He didn't feel the same way before Game 7.

"I'm just excited about the opportunity because these don't come along very much," he said. "I'm very proud of the way my team has responded."

While his players acted like it was just another game -- listening to music, reading and joking around with each other -- Brown was nervous about 45 minutes before tipoff.

"I'm not loose," he said. "It's been a long day."

Brown had to be pleased with the way his team eliminated the top-seeded team in the conference, winning a second straight game when facing the possible end of its season. The Pistons were cool and calm when they fell behind and aggressive and confident when they had a chance to win.

It was a true team effort, fitting the mold of the way Brown likes to lead a team.

Richard Hamilton scored 22 points and Rasheed Wallace had 20, but they were not the only contributors for the Pistons. Chauncey Billups had 18 points and eight assists, Ben Wallace had eight points and nine rebounds and Tayshaun Prince added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Detroit closed the game strong after falling behind late.

"They get up five late in the game, and we found a way to get through it," Brown said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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