MJ, Bobcats fall for Brown's tired act

Dan Wetzel

At this point, watching a Larry Brown introductory news conference is like catching the last days of Sinatra in Vegas.

There's really nothing left to see; nothing but an old legend hanging on, so desperate for the lifestyle and applause that he'll play the songs he knows he can't deliver, all for a fawning audience so desperate and delusional it willingly will suspend belief.

The Charlotte Bobcats threw Brown his 14th new hire news conference – counting USA Basketball and assuming he had one for his one-month, no-game stint at Davidson College back in the day. Michael Jordan played the hopelessly naïve audience this time, refusing to believe the reviews of Brown's last few bombed performances.

It was all very familiar and nice. Larry even brought his best monotone.

"How are you going to say no to Michael?" he said Tuesday.

That Ashley Dupre has said no to fewer men didn't matter. LB's first day always is the one for smiles and lies.

Let's just pretend he needed some arm-twisting, for old times' sake. As long as we get to the part where Larry is hailed as a great "teacher" for "the kids"?

"I think his teaching skills are going to be the biggest asset these young kids have," Jordan said.

Not that Brown has done anything with a young group since the Clippers, which was, what, five teams ago? Or that he generally despises rookies.

Or that he spent an entire Olympics whining about America's young players, feeding stereotypes about a lack of fundamentals to his media apologists back in the States. And those useless young players who no one could ever win with? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudamire and, ah, Emeka Okafor.

That's OK, can we wave a cigarette lighter and get the one about how Larry is just a humble old coach who hopes he can get everyone to inbound the ball?

"I don't feel like I'm a genius," the egoless coach said.

Of course, two jobs ago, in Detroit, he got fired not for a lack of wins – two trips to the Finals, one title – but because, ah, he felt like he was a genius.

"There was too much Larry Brown and not enough Pistons," said generally understated owner Bill Davidson, who hated Brown so much that he was willing to pay $18 million if Brown would just go away (they negotiated a settlement).

Davidson went on to call Brown "not a good person."

That would be a remarkable buyout story except for the time it took LB just one year to infuriate the Knicks so much that they fired him, despite owing Brown $40 million. (The NBA arbitrated that one to $18 million.) Let's not count whatever USA Basketball wished it could have paid him to cut his ugly American act short at the Athens Olympics.

Say this for Larry Brown: If he isn't a genius, then how do you describe his innate ability to get billionaires to pay him millions to not work? Let alone get another one, this time Bob Johnson, to declare he was "extremely proud and fortunate" to have hired him to a four-year, destined to be bought out, contract?

Well, the good news is Brown is done feuding with front offices and will concentrate on that legendary "teaching." Sure, Jordan is an absentee executive prone to historic blunders, but because they both went to North Carolina and played for Dean Smith (did Larry mention that?), it's cool.

No more complaining in the papers, no more benching prospects in a pout. Whatever MJ says, right?

"I'm going to let Michael know my thoughts about the players," Brown said. "We came from the same kind of background. I think it will be easy to understand what we both like."

Maybe Coach Smith can arbitrate. Michael can call in from the back nine.

Larry got a bunch of his favorite tunes into the rotation. There was his love of practice. There was how he never worked a day in his life. There was how, sure, he's been a bit nomadic, but this is the city and the team he really always has dreamed of.

"There's no place else I'd rather be than with the Charlotte Bobcats organization," he said.

This is home. Except for New York, which was home.

About the only LB standard we didn't get Monday was that he really wishes he could coach high school ball somewhere, you know, where the game is pure and he can really "teach" those "kids."

It's tough getting a high school job, apparently. Maybe next time.

All in all it was a fine performance for the Charlotte fans. They were once the best in the NBA, loud and loyal. Then they got screwed 15 different ways by ridiculousness and indifference, and now all they can do is dream this won't be a disaster.

Sure the Bobcats just hired a high-maintenance coach with champagne tastes who isn't fond of young players and has a recent history of inspiring hatred. And yes, this is a dysfunctional, six-pack budget franchise with inexperienced talent. But, ah, did we mention he went to Carolina?

"Welcome, Larry," Jordan said. "Thank you for taking the opportunity to come to Charlotte, and we're looking forward to some great things."

Like the bitter buyout in, say, 11 months?