Tuesday, July 19, 2005

With Brown On The Way Out, Pardon Me If I Don't 'Flip' For Saunders

Larry Brown didn't smile much when he coached the Pistons. Even when they were world champions, Brown seemed to always wear a sour puss.

Lord knows what demons Brown battles on a daily basis, but you get the feeling he's been battling them from the moment he started prowling a basketball sideline. Restlessness, angst, unfulfillment, curiosity -- those, I surmise, are just some of the moons that orbit around Planet Brown. And each of them seem to have their own gravitational pull that makes being Larry Brown as unpredictable as Michigan weather.

Well, we won't have to worry too much about that anymore, because, as I suspected, Brown is on his way out as Pistons coach. Perhaps the finishing touches on his buyout are being placed as you read this.

This ending is, at the same time, both totally predictable yet also surprising in its finality. Predictable, because....hey, it's Larry Brown we're talking about here. Surprising, because you still kinda thought that Pistons president Joe Dumars would do everything he could to keep Brown on the team's bench. But, as I posted here last week, owner Bill Davidson has the memory of an elephant and the sense of loyalty of a wife until she's been wounded. Then, all bets are off. And that proved to be too much for even a Hall of Fame coach to overcome.

The Pistons will probably miss Brown more than I care to admit, and while I am happy that the team will no longer have to suffer through his sideshow, it is very possible that overall team performance is on the line here, unless the right man is brought in to take over. Which is also why I am not thrilled with the prospects of Flip Saunders being the new man at the Palace.

Saunders is a nice enough guy, I suppose, and he certainly has some experience, having coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for nearly a decade. But what exactly has he accomplished there, when it has mattered the most -- in the postseason?

Saunders' playoff record, and I don't have the exact numbers before me, is suspect, and that's being kind. And it's not like he has coached chopped liver; Kevin Garnett was on his teams, for starters. He alone should be worth a playoff series win or two. But Garnett was surrounded by others who have some pretty good NBA talent, and at times the T-Wolves appeared, on paper at least, to have one of the best squads in the league. Yet when spring rolled around, the Wolves played like puppies.

So it all boils down to Dumars and my complete faith in his decision-making abilities. There is absolutely no one I trust more in Detroit sports than Joe D., and that may go for all 35 years of my watching and covering the teams in this town. If Joe Dumars were to tell us tomorrow that it's going to snow this weekend, then I'm going to bring my boots up from the basement and drag my shovel from the garage. And if Saunders gets the Pistons job, as has been widely speculated, and if it's because Dumars says Flip is the right man at the right time for the team, then I'm on board. I may be reluctant, but I'll be on the train.

It's too bad that it couldn't have worked out for Brown here longer than the two seasons, and while I thought a five-year contract was a tad bit ambitious, on both sides, I still was hoping we'd get more than two years out of him. He is, after all, one helluva basketball coach. But there were just too many distractions, too much focus on "coach" rather than "team." And in the end, there was just too much feeling of dread coming from Davidson that Larry had one eye elsewhere. Just like a jealous, suspicious wife.

But then it always ends like this for Larry wherever he goes, doesn't it?


Ian C. said...

"In Joe D we trust" - Greg, I'm with you on this.

I understand the skittishness about Flip Saunders, because he's not Larry Brown. But I wonder if we're selling him short too. When he had his best team, they finished with the best record in the NBA and made it to the Western Conference Finals. And I think the main reason they lost to the Lakers was inexperience.

Inexperience won't be a problem in Detroit. Flip doesn't have to teach these guys how to win. He just has to make sure they don't forget. And maybe not screwing it up is a more difficult job than I realize. But I think the performance of the T-Wolves after Flip was fired indicated just how flawed that team had become with Sprewell and Cassell being headcases.

I could be drinking the Kool-Aid, but I think the Pistons will be fine. They got the best guy on the market, and a new voice is probably just what these guys need to keep things fresh.

Kevin Antcliff said...

Let's not freak out until Flip gets in here and starts making moves. After we see the kind of players he wants on this squad, then we can start going crazy.

He's the best coach available IMO, so he's the right guy for us by default. I don't think we need to throw out the white flags just yet.

Also, he'll make for a GREAT interview for our inauguaral issue.