It could have easily been the desire to return home to his Brooklyn roots or the lure of millions, but while explaining that Larry Brown decided to become coach of the New York Knicks, Joe Glass, Brown's longtime agent, may have also described the Hall of Fame coach's peripatetic nature. "I think he's thrilled to be wanted," Glass said last night.
The Knicks have scheduled a news conference for noon today at Madison Square Garden to announce Brown as the 22nd coach in team history. Brown joins the Knicks less than 10 days after the Detroit Pistons bought out the final three years of his contract despite two trips to the NBA Finals and one championship in two seasons. His hiring generates considerable buzz for a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity for the past five seasons.
Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president of basketball operations, started a courtship with Brown the night he split with the Pistons -- who have already replaced Brown with Flip Saunders. Brown also met with Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan and Herb Williams -- who finished the season as the Knicks' interim coach -- before Glass finalized the details of the contract yesterday.
Glass did not discuss the terms of the deal, but several newspapers have reported that Brown would receive a five-year deal worth $50 million to $60 million, which would make him the highest-paid coach in professional sports.
Brown has a 987-741 record in his 22-year career as a professional coach. After leading the Pistons to an NBA championship in 2004, Brown earned the distinction of being the only coach to win an NBA title and an NCAA title, which he captured with Kansas in 1988.
In addition to his reputation as a traveling man, Brown has also proven to be an artist of the rapid turnaround. He has led all seven NBA teams he has coached to the playoffs -- including the perennial laughingstock Los Angeles Clippers -- but he will have arguably his greatest challenge with the Knicks and their roster of overpaid and underachieving players.
Brown, 64, missed 17 games last season because of a hip replacement surgery that led to a bladder problem. He had a third surgery shortly after the Pistons lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in the NBA Finals. Brown's wife, Shelly, had expressed concerns over her husband's health, but Glass said it shouldn't be an issue.
"Yes, he had a health problem last year, but I think the record shows that he performed admirably and productively," he said.