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Brown steps down as coach of Sixers

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2003

PHILADELPHIA Larry Brown hasn't lost his passion for coaching. He just felt he and the Philadelphia 76ers needed a change.

Brown resigned as coach of the 76ers on Monday after six often-turbulent seasons in which he helped rebuild a struggling franchise.

''This has been coming for a long time,'' Brown said at a news conference. ''I kind of thought in the middle of the season that we needed a change, a fresh look. And that's been on my mind awhile.''

A Hall of Famer and one of basketball's most well-traveled coaches, Brown could be a candidate for coaching vacancies in Cleveland, Houston and elsewhere.

The 76ers released Brown from a contractual clause that prohibited him from coaching another NBA team if he left Philadelphia prematurely. Brown had two years left in his contract that paid him $6 million per season.

''A lot of jobs are open, but I just left a great one,'' Brown said. ''I'm going to sit back, try to get with my family and figure out what's best for everybody.''

Brown's job with the 76ers was his longest tenure with any team in his 31-year coaching career. He led them to the playoffs five straight seasons, including the 2001 NBA Finals, and will coach the U.S. men's national team this summer at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico.

The 62-year-old Brown had been contemplating stepping down since Philadelphia lost its second-round playoff series to Detroit in six games. The 76ers overcame a mediocre start, won 23 of their final 33 games and finished 48-34.

But after beating New Orleans in six games in the first round, the 76ers couldn't get past the top-seeded Pistons, losing twice in overtime and once on a last-second shot that was goaltended.

''We had a good run. I think it's time to get somebody else in here to maybe give a fresh look,'' Brown said. ''I didn't want to hold this franchise back and I felt by staying here, I'd do that.''

LeBron James, the high school phenom expected to go to the Cavaliers with the top pick in the NBA draft on June 26, said he would be happy if Brown ended up in Cleveland.

''I think Larry Brown is a great teacher if we can get him,'' James said.

during an interview at halftime of TNT's broadcast of the San Antonio-Dallas playoff game Sunday night. ''I consider myself a student of the game, so Larry Brown would be great.''

Brown joked that James would reconsider his comments if he spoke to some of the 76ers.

Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson wouldn't say if Brown was a candidate.

''Our search process continues and the parameters that we set out with have not changed,'' Paxson said.

The 76ers' search for a successor could include Portland coach Maurice Cheeks, who played on the 76ers championship team in 1983 and was an assistant under Brown.

''Mo Cheeks has a year left on his contract and even talking about him could be tampering,'' team chairman Ed Snider said.

Brown came to Philadelphia in 1997, taking over a perennial loser that hadn't been to the playoffs since 1991. With help from then-president Pat Croce, Brown turned the 76ers from a laughingstock organization into one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

In 2000-01, Brown led the 76ers to a 56-26 record and first place in the East. Philadelphia advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 18 years before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.

Brown was the NBA's coach of the year that season, the only time he won the award. Brown was coach of the year in the ABA three times in four seasons.

''Larry Brown did a terrific job, and helped restore the 76ers as one of the best organizations in basketball,'' Snider said.

Brown doesn't expect to be sitting at home next season.

''I'm not going to be idle. I don't think I can do that,'' he said. ''I'm pumped about coaching. I don't want to go to into another situation unless I know it's right for my family myself and that franchise.''

Brown had a contentious relationship with Allen Iverson, but the two worked together despite several disputes.

At one point, the All-Star guard nearly was traded to Detroit. A few times, Brown came close to leaving, and once had to be talked out of quitting by Croce and general manager Billy King.

Brown twice considered the possibility of returning to coach his alma mater, North Carolina both in 2000 when Matt Doherty was hired, and again when the Tar Heels were looking for a replacement in April.

Brown compiled a record of 879-685 in the NBA, and 1,285-853 overall, including ABA and college.

Brown won an NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988. He became the first coach to take six NBA teams to the playoffs when the 76ers made it in 1999.

The 76ers were 255-205 under Brown, and 26-30 in the playoffs.

Brown has had winning records in 27 of his 31 seasons as a head coach on the professional and collegiate levels. He finished first in his division six times and reached the Eastern Conference finals three times.

Brown has also coached Denver (five years), Indiana (four years), San Antonio (3 1/2 years), New Jersey (two years), Carolina of the ABA (two years) and the Clippers (18 months).

A three-time All-Star guard in the ABA, Brown is the only U.S. male to play and coach in the Olympics.

Brown's team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico includes Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan and Iverson. The team will try to win one of three spots in the 2004 Olympics for nations from the FIBA-Americas zone.



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