Larry Brown reflects on the practice rant and coaching Allen Iverson

Paul Hudrick
NBC Sports Philadelphia

May 7 marks the 18th anniversary of Allen Iverson's infamous practice rant. We've seen it a bunch and know a little of the background.

The Sixers had just been eliminated from the playoff by the Celtics. Iverson still was mourning the death of his best friend, Rahsaan Langford, and the murder trial had just begun.

Hours before Iverson started that press conference, he had a conversation with his coach, Larry Brown, at PCOM, where the team used to practice. As a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast, Brown shed some light on that conversation and where Iverson's mind was.

Brown wasn't aware of Iverson losing his friend but understands now how upset Iverson was given how fiercely loyal he is to those close to him. All Iverson wanted that day was a sign of loyalty from Brown and the Sixers.

I remember Allen missed a meeting. ... You have the meeting usually with your players after the season ends. You talk about what we did well, what we needed to do better, players tell me what I need to improve on. Allen didn't show up. My recollection is I met Allen at the practice facility after he didn't show up for the meeting and all he wanted to talk to me about was, ‘You're not going to trade me, Coach. Please make sure you keep me here. I want to be here. I want to play in Philly. I love Philly. I don't want to play anywhere else.'

"My conversation with him is, ‘Allen, you got to change. You're the best player. Everybody follows you. If you could just spend more time working on your craft, and not just compete every game as hard as you possibly can, you can help us maybe take it to the next level. You'd be a great example, to me, for the younger kids and if they see you not doing all the right things, it's very difficult for a coach to get the most out of his team.'

"And he listened to me. He was real respectful, but he kept coming back, ‘Coach, please tell me I'm not gonna be traded.' I told him that [he wasn't going to be traded], because Billy [King] and I and Pat [Croce] had talked about it. And then there was like a three-hour gap between the press conference he was gonna have and the conversation I had with him. Now I can't tell you what he was doing during those three hours, but … he wanted to hear from the people out there, ‘Hey Allen, Coach said he's not gonna trade you, are you going to be here?' and the first thing they asked him about was about practice. That set him off because his only thought about that press conference was, ‘Hey, I'm gonna be back here. I'm gonna be back with Coach. I'm gonna be back with my teammates I love and we're gonna try to build on what we did before hopefully to make our team better.'

It's no secret that Iverson and Brown had their ups and downs. Some of those negative moments played out in public.

Brown resigned in 2003, but there was always a mutual respect between the two. In fact, during that presser 18 year ago, Iverson referred to Brown as "the best coach in the world." Iverson has countlessly thanked Brown for the impact he's made on his career. He's even admitted that he wished he listened to Brown a little more.

During Iverson's jersey retirement ceremony in 2014, a video message from Brown played. One of the things Brown said was, "God put me there to coach you." As he reflects back, Brown is grateful for that opportunity and the bond he built Iverson.

He made me a better coach. He made me a better person. I used to tell him all the time, as much as people loved and admired Magic [Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Michael [Jordan] and Julius [Erving], Allen had his own group that admired him because most people could identify with him. He was barely 6-feet tall, 165 pounds. Nobody competed any harder, tried to win a ball game [any harder].

"Yeah, he had some issues that troubled me. We even talk today. I brought him to my teams at SMU. I never thought Allen gave himself a chance to even be better than he really was because he didn't approach the game the same way as maybe a Kobe [Bryant] or a Michael [Jordan] did. And he knows that. ... That frustrated me because I didn't think anybody was more athletic or had more of a gift to be great than Allen. And I coached some great players. He had unbelievable respect from his teammates and from our coaches, but I think there are things that he could've done better. 

"But at the end of the day, I'm so proud I got to coach him and be around him because he helped me as I moved forward. I wish I had it to do all over again to coach him because I think I could've done a little better job with him. … For me that will to win and what he meant to that city, and when you say, ‘Hey Coach, that was one of my favorite teams,' I can't go anywhere where people don't stop me and say, ‘That 2001 team with Allen Iverson might have been my favorite team I ever watched.' And we didn't win a championship.

Be sure to check back Monday for the entire conversation with Brown on the Sixers Talk podcast.

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Larry Brown reflects on the practice rant and coaching Allen Iverson originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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