PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The years of missed practices, criticism and hurt feelings melted away as soon as Allen Iverson wrapped his arms around Larry Brown.
Brown apologized for the controversy surrounding his return to Philadelphia after six seasons as coach. Iverson, his former All- Star and antagonist, told Brown all was forgiven.
“I told him not to worry about it, that I care about him and I wished him well,” Iverson said.
Then Iverson went out and spoiled Brown’s return, scoring 30 points in the 76ers’ 90-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
“I won and Coach lost. I never had that feeling before,” Iverson said. “We always felt good together when we won and felt bad when we lost.”
Brown now knows what it feels like on the other end of a dominant Iverson performance. He also knows what it’s like being on the wrong side of the Philly fans.
The boos began for Brown when the former Philadelphia coach walked out during pregame warmups and reached a crescendo when he was introduced. Brown was serenaded with chants of “traitor” and “fraud” and fans yelled a derisive chant throughout the game.
Signs derided Brown, including one with his face on a turkey that read, “Yo Larry, Stuff It.”
“It was a great experience regardless of those chants,” Brown said. “My kids learned a bad word.”
Brown did not react to the insults, sitting hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his chin resting on his clasped hands.
While the sellout crowd of 20,512 fans turned on him, his former players only offered hugs and handshakes.
Derrick Coleman was first down the sideline for a hug, followed by Iverson. Iverson and Brown, whose relationship was more contentious than harmonious— exchanged a long embrace and a few words. Eric Snow, who went from seldom-used backup in Seattle to starting point guard under Brown, followed with a hug.
Before Aaron McKie checked in late in the first quarter, he also stopped by Brown for a quick hug.
Brown choked up when talking about the affectionate gestures by the Sixers.
“What happened to me tonight with those players validates everything,” Brown said.
Iverson understood why the fans were angry. Brown bolted for Detroit less than a month after the Pistons beat the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“People who are loyal fans understand what he’s done for the organization and the city,” Iverson said. “But he’s still the enemy.”
Brown led the Sixers to the playoffs five straight seasons, including the 2001 NBA Finals. Brown was the NBA’s coach of the year that season, the only time he has won the award.
The 76ers were 255-205 under Brown, and 26-30 in the playoffs.
Brown though, thought he was no longer the right coach for the Sixers and longtime assistant Randy Ayers was promoted.
“I left because I didn’t think I would make a difference,” Brown said. “I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t doing the job I was supposed to do, it’s time to move on.”
The Pistons fell behind by 15 in the first half before rallying for a two-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Iverson hit a 3-pointer and Snow made a driving layup, tying it at 76.
Iverson made an 18-footer, putting the Sixers ahead for good, 80-78, and Coleman followed with a thunderous dunk.
Okur made it 89-86 with a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.
Snow made one free throw to seal the victory.
The crowd did not leave early, waiting for one last chance to ride Brown. Chants of “Laaa-rrry! Laaa-rrry!” came down from the rafters in the final seconds.
When it ended, Iverson and Brown met again for one last embrace.
“It was a game I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life,” Iverson said.
Former Sixers coach Billy Cunningham, who led the team to the 1983 NBA championship, was at the game. … Players also hugged former Sixers assistants Dave Hanners, John Kuester and Mike Woodson, who joined Brown in Detroit. …Iverson, Hamilton and Ayers were all whistled for technicals.