Larry Brown enjoyed two very successful seasons in Detroit before his exit to New York.
The Hall of Fame coach makes his return to The Palace of Auburn Hills when the Knicks take on the defending Eastern Conference champion Pistons.
Brown, known just as much for his inability to stay in one place very long as his unquestioned coaching prowess, led the Pistons to an NBA title in 2004 and last year’s Finals, which Detroit lost in seven tough games to San Antonio.
Though there were rumors throughout last season that Brown was angling for the Knicks job, the Pistons wound up firing him after his second year in what many assume was a mutual agreement. He is now coaching his eighth pro team, and also enjoyed successful stints at the collegiate level with UCLA and Kansas, where he won a national title in 1988.
“I was fired, so it’s a little different,” Brown said when asked how this return compares to countless others during his career.
Pistons players don’t appear to hold any ill will toward the coach who led them back to NBA prominence and their first championship since 1990-91.
“When a guy took you to the championships the last two years and he’s sitting on the other side, it’s going to be kind of weird,” Detroit guard Richard Hamilton admitted.
Brown’s departure has been made easier by Detroit’s early success under new coach Flip Saunders.
The Pistons opened with an eight-game winning streak and have won 11 of their first 13 games, including Wednesday’s 93-83 victory over New Jersey. Hamilton scored 30 points and Chauncey Billups added 20 as the Pistons matched a season high with 10 3-pointers.
“My take is that these guys need challenges,” said Saunders, who joined the Pistons after a 10-year tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Sometimes maybe they can get a little bored out there. But when they’re locked in, it’s like a curtain goes up and you can see it in their faces. They go from fifth gear into a sixth gear.”
The Pistons have won the last four meetings with the Knicks, outscoring them by nearly 14 points per game.
Brown, a New York native, didn’t have an easy homecoming. The Knicks opened with five straight losses, but have recovered to go 5-4 since, including Wednesday’s 109-101 win over the Chicago Bulls.
“You have to attack,” Crawford said. “Coach wants us to run our offense, but we’re out there on the court, so if we see something we have to be aggressive. If I’m out there playing timid, it’s not helping my team at all.”
Knicks center Eddy Curry has missed the last four games due to a strained left calf and is listed as day-to-day.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 1): Knicks - 4th place, 2 GB, Atlantic Division. Pistons - 1st place, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Knicks - Marbury, 17.8 ppg and 6.5 apg; Curry, 6.5 rpg. Pistons - Hamilton, 21.2 ppg; Ben Wallace, 12.1 rpg; Billups, 8.2 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 22; Pistons, 97-88. At Detroit, Hamilton and Prince scored 19 points each as Brown’s Pistons limited the Knicks to 38 percent shooting.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Knicks - 2-7 on the road; Pistons - 4-1 at home.