Thursday, January 23, 2003

GRIZZ REPORT: Jerry West picking Hubie Brown to coach the Grizzlies may have been an even odder choice than initially thought. Here's Mike Khan of SportsLine:

The decision to take the job wasn't difficult for Brown. Figuring out what to do and how to implement it was a different story. West called Brown the morning Sidney Lowe was relieved of his duties. Things had changed for Brown, with the new television contract limiting the number of games Turner would telecast in deference to ESPN and ABC.

Consequently, he was being limited to studio analysis for Turner and had accepted a job to do 42 games as a broadcast analyst for the San Antonio Spurs. But it didn't take long for him to arrive at a decision.

"I'm not a studio guy," Brown said. "I like games. I had done three games (for the Spurs), then Jerry called me that morning. I made the decision in the afternoon, and we were in Memphis that night. Don't let anybody tell you it is better to jump right in after eight games and decide to take a job like I did. Mainly, you're coaching a team, but you're also coaching coaches that hadn't worked together before. Doing this without a training camp is very difficult.

"We had two days off, then six games in nine days, so we had to get into everything fast."

They did and have done reasonably well, even exceeded expectations.

All the plaudits and general respect for his knowledge unquestionably have a basis in fact. They speak volumes of the man whose voice became synonymous with the NBA on CBS and Turner Broadcasting after he was fired by the New York Knicks 16 games into the 1986-87 season. His pro coaching career spanned from 1972-86. He began as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks; two years later, he took over the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, coaching them to their one and only championship, then to the semifinals the next season before the ABA folded; and he then became the coach of the Atlanta Hawks (1976-81) and ultimately the Knicks (1982-86).

But what begs for answers is this: If Brown is such a great basketball coach, why did he have a 341-410 record in nine-plus seasons in the NBA with the Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks?


"Hubie is a great basketball mind, but the key is how he gets along with the players," said Orlando Magic broadcaster Jack Givens, who played for Brown in Atlanta. "That was always the issue with him. This is a different age of basketball, and we didn't exactly love the way he treated us 20 years ago. It's going to be interesting."


As Brown tinkered with combinations, [Pau] Gasol, 22, admittedly had trouble dealing with erratic playing time.

"I had to stop thinking about me and learn how to get to another level with the team," Gasol said. "It's always hard to accept the changes, adjust to the coach, new style and whatever he wants to do. We've just got to be on the same page about everything and we're lucky to have somebody like Hubie teaching us how to play together and grow in the same direction."

Doesn't sound like any of the notorious Brown caustic meltdowns have happened with these players, does it? They had no idea about his reputation with the Knicks and Hawks, only the way he has treated them.

From all indications, it has been superb. If he has something to say to individual players, he tells them. No dressing down in front of the others has taken place with this squad.

"There's been nothing like that," [Brevin] Knight said. "I wouldn't even call him a disciplinarian. It's not like he laid down the law or anything like that. He came in, gave us a set of rules to abide by and if you don't abide by those rules, you don't play. Period. I think people misjudged him because he's been really open to suggestions. His only things that aren't negotiable are giving 100 percent when you're out on the floor, being on time and giving your all on the defensive end. If you aren't doing that, there is no margin of error. Otherwise, he just lets us play. Everybody is getting a fair shake."

The calming of his ways is palpable. He is more professorial than ever before. His 25 clinics a year internationally always kept his hands in teaching, while his broadcasting career forced him to be aware of all players and systems in the NBA.

The biggest hurdle figured to be [Jason] Williams, the gifted miniature version of Pistol Pete Maravich. Sacramento Kings general manager Geoff Petrie dealt Williams to the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby in what many believed to be the steal of the 21st century for obvious reasons. For every death-defying spinning hook shot that kissed the glass and melted into the back of the net, there was a pull-up jumper from 30 that caromed off the rim; for each behind-the-back-through-the-legs pass in traffic for a teammate to dunk was a no-look, behind-the-back pass into the 12th row.

That had to stop.

"Hubie is preparing me to be the best I can be for this team and my ears are open to try and learn how to do that," Williams said. "The respect Hubie brought made us care about each other more and that's made all of us better players. If you respect your teammates and coaches, then you respect the system."

This is the greatest paternal coach-player relationship since AI and Larry Brown in the finals a few years ago. So years in the broadcast booth made Hubie Brown a better man and a better coach, and only Jerry West realized it. Wow.

The Grizz beat the Spurs last night. They are such a fun team to watch. Rapmaster is the luckiest man on Earth.

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