Larry Brown is very familiar with the Philadelphia 76ers last opponent. It’s his relationship with Philadelphia’s next opponent, however, that is more notable.
The 76ers (9-25) take on the New York Knicks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, and although Brown may not be at the game, his history with New York will undoubtedly put him at the forefront of Knicks fans’ minds.
Philadelphia named Brown as the team’s executive vice president on Saturday. He coached the Sixers from 1997-2002, leading them to a 2001 NBA Finals before departing for the Detroit Pistons after the following season.
After two seasons in Detroit - where he won a title in 2003 and lost in the finals in 2004 - Brown endured a miserable season in his only one in New York in 2005-06, going 23-59. But the team’s record was just a footnote in a disastrous season that featured him openly criticizing point guard Stephon Marbury through the media and publicly criticizing team president and now Knicks coach Isiah Thomas over player personnel decisions.
“Larry Brown is a great coach, but for various reasons, bringing him to the Knicks did not turn out the way we had hoped and we wish him the best in the future,” Thomas said in a statement following Brown’s firing in June.
Brown later filed a grievance with the NBA in June, saying New York owed him $40 million - the remainder of his salary. He received an $18.5 million payout from the team.
The Sixers are hoping they have better luck against the Knicks (15-21) than they did against another of Brown’s former teams - the Pistons - although history isn’t in their favor. Philadelphia lost to the Pistons on Tuesday 98-89 for the team’s third straight loss.
Chris Webber missed his sixth consecutive game with foot and ankle injuries, but the veteran forward has wanted to leave Philadelphia for a while, and the team could be preparing a contract buyout to be presented soon.
The Sixers allowed Detroit to shoot 56.3 percent.
“We continued to push and push, and it looked like we were kind of going uphill in the first half,” coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It looked like all night long we were climbing uphill.”
Brown, who has been rumored to replace Cheeks despite saying he has no interest in coaching, watched the game from a suite.
New York has won six of its last seven at Madison Square Garden against Philadelphia, and 24 of the last 31 games played there since 1991.
The Knicks returned home upbeat after winning the final two games of a five-game road trip, capped by Friday’s 111-93 victory over the Seattle Supersonics. Marbury scored 28 points, Eddy Curry added 27 and Jamal Crawford had 22 for New York, which shot 51.3 percent from the field.
“We’re starting to play good basketball. I like the way we’re defending. I like the way we’re rebounding,” Thomas said. “I like our attitude and our approach.”
New York enters Wednesday’s contest having won four straight at home, having defeated Utah, Chicago and Detroit during the streak. The Knicks are averaging 115.5 points during that stretch and have won three of those games in overtime, including a triple-overtime triumph over Detroit.