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Ball Don't Lie

Suddenly, Larry Brown’s eternal wandering makes more sense

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Larry Brown is just a man, standing in front of a basketball team, asking it to love him. (Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the New York Daily News published a cool profile of Billy King, the general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, written by Nets beat man Stefan Bondy. It includes many cool bits of information, including that King talked his way into Duke University despite less-than-elite grades by quoting Shakespeare during an interview with the school's provost, that he used to tend bar at a Chili's and that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov "was heli-skiing in Northern Vancouver" when King made his blockbuster trade for Deron Williams. (We already knew about the heli-skiing, but like my grandfather always said, there's no such thing as too much talking about heli-skiing, Daniel.)

For my money, though, the neatest nugget in the up-close look at the Nets GM came from legendary coach Larry Brown, the man who hired King as an assistant coach while running the Indiana Pacers and took him along to the Philadelphia 76ers to become the league's youngest general manager. Asked why he hired King, the NCAA and NBA title-winning coach explained:

"I always hired guys that were kind of family to me," Brown says. "I always figured I could teach all the basketball I've been taught, but I could never teach people to love me. And I just had a real warm feeling about Billy. So I hired him, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made."

"... but I could never teach people to love me." How perfect is that? Larry Brown is like the Morrissey of man-to-man defense. He's the SDRE of SLOB plays. He's the Promise Ring of the pick-and-roll.

You just know that somewhere in that labyrinthine mind that's forgotten more about basketball than I'll ever know, Larry Brown believes that's why he's on his 14th head-coaching job in a 40-year sideline career — he just hasn't been able to surround himself with people who love him or, failing that, make like the Supremes and Temptations. It's not that, as Our Fearless Leader once wrote, he "seemingly wants a new roster for every game he plays," or because he's never seen a patch of grass he didn't think looked just a little bit greener than the one he was standing on. It's about the love.

(We should probably count ourselves lucky that this has eluded Brown; given his propensity for falling forward into better, higher-profile and higher-paying gigs, if he could make people love him, he might've conquered the world twice by now.)

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